Bacteria – the invasion of the mouth
Caries, gingivitis, periodontitis – dental specialist words are on everyone’s lips, but what do these terms mean?
About 50 billion bacteria inhabit people's mouths. The most dangerous kind is streptococci. They feel happiest in the deposits that adhere to the tooth surface and live mainly off sugar. This produces organic acids that dissolve the hard, roughly 2.5-millimetre thick protective layer of tooth enamel. If the germs penetrate as far as the dentin, holes can form in the teeth. Without treatment the dental pulp becomes inflamed and severe pain is the result.
Avoid sugary foods
Bacteria like these that settle in the niches of the occlusal (biting) surface in-between the teeth and along the gum line around the teeth – in other words, in places from which they are difficult to remove and where they can develop undisturbed.
Because the bacteria convert carbohydrates into acid, tooth decay will be promoted by sweets, food and beverages that contain sugars (including fructose and lactose). If acids such as those found in foods like fruit juices or fruit are added to these, the enamel comes under further attack.
Periodontitis is widespread
While caries destroys the individual tooth, periodontal disease affects the entire attachment apparatus – firstly the gums and then gradually the jawbone and the tissue that connects the root of the tooth to the bone. Periodontal disease is also caused by bacteria and occurs slowly over decades. Unlike tooth decay, damage to the periodontium can hardly ever be repaired and often tooth loss is the result. Even worse: the risk of cardiovascular disease increases with periodontal disease.
The first signs of incipient periodontitis are inflamed gums (gingivitis). Bleeding gums are often a clear indication of periodontitis. One in five people over the age of 40 is affected – at this age, more people lose their teeth due to untreated bleeding gums than through tooth decay.
Paradigm shift in prophylaxis
Leading dental practitioners have so far focused their prevention work on the fight against periodontal disease and given first priority to securing the periodontium. Modern periodontal prophylaxis automatically results in caries prevention, because both have the same goal, namely removing plaque. In the end it is the reason for both caries and gingivitis as well as periodontal disease as a result.
Specifically: properly cleaned teeth and interdental spaces are the best conditions for keeping teeth for a lifetime. And this requires a toothbrush, an interdental brush and dental floss.
Tooth decay damage can be repaired. Gingivitis can be cured (and quite easily with brush and floss). However, periodontal disease is not curable. Good oral care is the best way to prevent this process – particularly since it can be a real pleasure with the right products.