Aggressive periodontitis is a type of severe gum disease. Unlike chronic periodontitis, it often strikes young people who are otherwise healthy and who have good oral hygiene habits. This condition can develop quickly and with little warning, leading to rapid tooth loss. Here's what you need to know about it.
How do you know you have it?
Aggressive periodontitis causes many symptoms. Red, swollen gums are the first warning sign that you have the disease, and your gums may also hurt or even bleed when you brush or floss your teeth. Your gums will also start to recede from your teeth, which exposes the sensitive base of the tooth. Hot or cold foods or drinks will cause discomfort as the gums recede.
As the disease advances, the symptoms will get worse. Your gum disease will cause the tissues near your gums, including your bone, to break down. Your teeth will get loose and may shift positions in your mouth, causing gaps in your smile that weren't there before. Your shifting teeth can also affect your bite, making it difficult or even painful to eat. If the teeth get loose enough, they can even fall out. You may also notice pus along your gum line, which leads to both bad breath and a bad taste in your mouth.
How does it differ from chronic periodontitis?
Aggressive periodontitis progresses much more quickly than the chronic form of the disease. In chronic periodontitis, the gums recede by about 0.25 mm (0.01 inch) each year, but with aggressive periodontitis, this happens as much as 4 times faster.
Often, people with aggressive periodontitis have only a thin layer of plaque on their teeth, with no calculus (hardened plaque). This is because they follow good dental hygiene habits like brushing and flossing every day. Chronic periodontitis, in comparison, happens when you don't brush and floss properly, which allows bacteria-filled calculus to build up on the teeth.
What causes it?
If calculus build up doesn't cause the aggressive form of periodontitis, what does? Studies have shown a variety of possible causes. Both the Epstein Barr virus and herpes viruses have been linked with the disease. Smoking has also been linked to the condition. Even conditions like stress have been linked to this disease, though more studies need to be done to understand why stress affects your gums.
How common is it?
Aggressive periodontitis isn't as common as the chronic form, but it's still a fairly common dental problem. Between 1% and 15% of people who are less than 35 years old have the condition, according to studies.
This disease is more common in some groups of people. Studies have shown that African Americans are more likely to have the disease than white people, and men are more likely to get it than women.
How is it treated?
Your dentist will first perform a deep cleaning procedure called scaling and root planing. During this procedure, plaque will be scraped off of your teeth and also from beneath your gums. You may also be given antimicrobial gel or mouthwash to kill the bacteria along your gum line. Antibiotics are sometimes necessary as well, in cases where the gums are infected.
Surgery is sometimes required to treat the disease, in cases where less invasive treatments have failed. Your dentist will cut back sections of your gums to clean underneath them, and also to repair any bone tissue that has been damaged by your periodontitis.
Aggressive periodontitis is a serious form of gum disease, and if you think you might have it, you need to read more and see your dentist right away. If you don't seek treatment, you could end up losing your teeth.