Neglected oral health can lead to troubling side effects, such as decreasing bone density and tooth loss.
Defining Gum Disease
Also referred to as periodontal disease, gum disease is an infection of the areas that surround your teeth. There are three stages associated with gum disease that range in severity, and symptoms can include swollen, red, tender, or bleeding gums; bad breath; gum recession; and more. The most common and least severe stage is gingivitis, followed by periodontitis and advanced periodontitis. By the time you reach periodontitis, you will begin to experience bone loss in the jaw.
Gum Disease and Bone Loss
Your gums act as protectors for your teeth. However, when your oral hygiene takes a back seat, there’s a high likelihood you’ll develop advanced gum disease over time. With this, bacteria grow and spread, causing your gums to pull away from your teeth. The spaces this creates allow infections to spread beneath the gumline, where they can attack connective tissue and bone that stand in their way. Eventually, this deterioration will reach your jawbone and the tissues that hold your teeth in place, and tooth loss will be imminent.
Unfortunately, tooth loss isn’t the only issue associated with gum disease you need to worry about. When an infection damages bone density in the jaw, it can affect your facial structure and may even make it difficult for you to eat or speak. Additionally, it can hinder your ability to wear dentures if necessary, since they likely won’t fit correctly. It can also make oral surgery riskier.
Depending on the type and severity of the disease, there are many different treatment options. One nonsurgical option is called scaling and root planing. With this method, your dentist will use a tool to remove plaque and tartar from your teeth and root surfaces and smooth away roughness so the gums can reattach themselves to the teeth. In more severe cases, surgical options like pocket reduction or gum grafts might be necessary.
The best way to prevent gum disease is to rigorously follow a good oral hygiene routine. Brushing twice a day and flossing is the first line of defense against dental plaque and gum infections. Additionally, routine dentist visits will cut down your risk of disease, as dental cleanings can eliminate plaque in areas your toothbrush alone cannot reach.