Tooth and Bone Loss from Gum Disease
Gum disease is a serious infection that, if left untreated, can have serious consequences. In its earliest stages, gum disease is very uncomfortable and can cause bad breath. As the infection worsens, gum disease can damage the bone that holds your teeth in place, which puts you at risk for losing one or more teeth.
Gum disease starts when plaque accumulates on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky transparent film, consisting mostly of bacteria. In the early stages of gum disease, known as gingivitis, the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums to cause inflammation. Plaque can harden into tartar, which is rich in bacteria and hard to remove.
Gum Disease Can Cause Bone Loss and Even Tooth Loss
Without treatment, gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease, which is an advanced and serious form of gum disease. Inflammation and tartar can cause the gum to pull away from the tooth to create pockets between the gum and tooth. Bacteria in plaque and tartar can fill the pocket to infect the structures holding the tooth in your jaw. Periodontal disease can cause significant damage to the gums, bones, and other tissues that provide structure and support for your teeth. In time, the damage can cause teeth to loosen and even fall out. Periodontal disease can also cause systemic health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Many factors can contribute to plaque buildup and eventual periodontal disease. Poor brushing and flossing can allow plaque to build up and harden into tartar, for example. Misaligned teeth increase the risk for gum disease, because it can be hard to remove plaque from the nooks and crannies created by crooked teeth. Smoking and tobacco use can increase the risk of periodontal disease; having a family history of gum disease is also a factor.
Treating Gum Disease to Avoid Teeth and Bone Loss
Treating your gum disease can help you avoid the loss of bone and teeth. Treatment focuses on removing the bacteria-filled plaque and tartar to clear the infectious material from your teeth and gums. Regular cleaning removes plaque and tartar from above the gum line. Deep cleaning, also known as scaling and root planing, targets problems above and below the gum line. Scaling removes plaque and tartar from teeth and from pockets in the gum, while root planing involves smoothing out the tooth roots to help your gums reattach to your teeth to shrink pockets.
Tooth loss associated with gum disease can leave unsightly gaps between teeth. It can also cause crooked teeth and wide spaces between teeth as the neighboring teeth drift into the gaps. Worse still, missing teeth allow your bone to deteriorate further – chewing places pressure on the tooth root, and this pressure stimulates healthy bones. When you lose a tooth, you also lose the stimulation that keeps bones healthy; your body reabsorbs the bone near the missing tooth and near neighboring teeth.
A dentist may recommend a dental bridge to fill in the gap created by one missing tooth in some cases, but a bridge uses neighboring teeth as anchors, which means the dentist must remove enamel from these anchor teeth so that they can support the bridge. Chewing places additional pressure on the anchor teeth, but it does not stimulate the bone beneath the missing tooth.
Replacing missing teeth with implants is often the better choice for many patients. Dental implants are a type of artificial tooth root that provides longer-lasting, more natural-looking result. A dental implant involves the placement of a screw-shaped rod directly into the bone, capped with a crown that looks just like a real tooth. Dental implants look great, and they provide the stimulation your bone needs to stay strong.
If you worry that you cannot have dental implants because you have gum disease, you will be glad to know you may be able to get these permanent tooth replacements if you address your periodontal disease and bone loss. Having dental implants can even help you reverse bone loss by providing the natural stimulation you need for strong bones.
Williams & Daily Dental is a family and cosmetic dentist located in North Raleigh, NC with a team of dedicated dentists enthusiastic in their commitment to
their patients. We offer dental implants, Invisalign teeth straightening, in-office and home teeth whitening options, and Oral-B electric toothbrushes.
Contact Williams & Daily at (919) 846-9070 for more information and to schedule an appointment today.