As patients of our Portland periodontist know, gingivitis – a common form of gum disease – can easily develop into the far more serious periodontitis – a disease that damages soft gum tissue while also potentially destroying bone structure that support our teeth – if not properly treated.
In research recently published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a team of international clinicians and researchers charted the microbial ecology of the mouth during each stage of the progression that occurs when gingivitis develops into periodontitis, in approximately 1,000 women in Malawi where oral infections are very common.
As part of their study, researcher used high-throughput sequencing of the 16S ribosomal RNA gene to record the number of oral microbiomes – the combined genetic material of oral microorganisms. When the data was analyzed, researchers discovered that a small number of bacteria were linked to periodontitis, but not gingivitis.
The findings of this study help to confirm that periodontitis cannot simply be considered an advanced stage of gingivitis, according to researchers involved in the study.
Understanding the Development of Gum Disease
While gingivitis has several notable symptoms, differentiating between gingivitis and periodontitis can prove difficult for even the most experienced dentist.
Typically, gingivitis will show early warnings signs that are easily noticeable. These early warning signs include:
- Gums that bleed easily, especially after brushing
- Gums that appear red or swollen
- Gums that appear inflamed and are tender to the touch
Unfortunately, visually identifying when gingivitis progress into periodontitis is nearly impossible. The disease doesn’t usually show any signs or symptoms until it has progressed to the point that teeth become lose, which is a very late stage to begin treatment, stated researchers from the Center for Child Health Research who helped co-author the study.
Diagnosis of the disease requires specially trained dental professionals – such as the Portland periodontists at Portland Periodontics – and highly technical equipment, which are largely unavailable in underdeveloped countries.
Researchers hope the results of this latest study can change the difficulty many oral health professionals have when trying to diagnose the early stages of periodontitis. By developing an inexpensive and rapid point-of-care test based on distinguishing the microbiomes associated with both gingivitis and periodontitis, researchers hope to make better oral care cheaper and more readily available to patients everywhere.
This new research promises to make it possible to tell the differences in the bacteria linked specifically to the deepening of dental pockets – a primary symptoms of periodontitis and main cause of tooth loss – rather than simply relying on identifying the disease through bleeding gums.
Protecting Your Oral Health
Gum disease is a serious long-term oral health problem that can also present a risk to your overall health as well. Research has found compelling links between gum disease and a range of chronic illnesses that include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, dementia, and cancer.
Protecting your long-term health means ensuring the long-term health of your teeth and gums. If you suffer from the early signs of gingivitis, you need to schedule an appointment with your Portland periodontist to ensure the disease doesn’t progress into a condition that can have a lasting impact on your life.