Everyone has had a splinter under their skin at one time or another. The tiny culprits often turn up silently, and it's only later that you notice the irritation. If left untreated, the wound can become inflamed and even infected - your body's natural response to an invading foreign body. That's when a commonplace nuisance can become an uncomfortable and potentially serious problem. That's how periodontitis - or gum disease - works.
When plaque, an invisible, sticky bacterial film, is allowed to build up on your teeth, usually around the gumline, it can harden into an unattractive yellowish substance called tartar or calculus. If ignored, calculus accumulates between the tooth and the gum creating pockets of infection, causing swelling, tenderness, and even bleeding - just like a nasty splinter.
Periodontal disease has been called the silent disease because it arrives unannounced and can worsen with little or no initial discomfort. Although initially quiet and unassuming, it is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults, it can destroy bone and supporting tissues, and it has been linked to life-threatening illnesses like heart disease and stroke, diabetes, and cancer, as well as to premature births.
Only a dentist or hygienist can remove calculus. But the best cure is prevention through regular brushing and flossing. Like a splinter, it's best to remove plaque before the nuisance becomes a problem.
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