Tooth Loss and Gum Disease: How Can You Protect Your Smile?
A little bleeding while brushing and flossing may seem like a minor problem, but it's often the first sign of gum disease, a serious oral health problem. If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth decay, gum recession, and tooth loss. For those who have already experienced tooth loss, custom dentures can help restore dental function and appearance for improved quality of life. To discover your treatment options for tooth loss and gum disease, schedule a consultation with San Antonio, TX dentist Joseph Perry. In the meantime, read on to learn more about gum disease, tooth loss, and how you can protect your smile.
The Signs of Gum Disease
Gum disease is one of the most common oral health problems. Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is a bacterial infection generally caused by plaque and tartar buildup. During the early stages of gum disease, known as gingivitis, the gums may look red and inflamed or feel tender. However, the biggest indicator of gingivitis is bleeding gums when brushing and flossing. If these signs are ignored, gingivitis will become more serious, progressing to the advanced stage of gum disease called periodontitis.
Periodontitis poses major risks to oral health. With periodontitis, infection may spread beyond the gums, reaching the jawbone and structures supporting the teeth. Periodontitis also leads to the formation of pockets between the gums and teeth as plaque and tartar settle along the gum line. These pockets allow bacteria to reach the roots of the teeth, putting them at risk of decay. Other signs of periodontitis include chronic bad breath, bleeding gums, and loose teeth.
Gum Disease and Tooth Loss
If left untreated, gum disease can severely impact oral health, causing tooth decay, gum recession, and tooth loss. Gum disease is particularly dangerous to oral health due to a number of factors that can increase the risk of tooth loss. These factors include:
- Gum recession: Over time, gum disease can cause the gums to recede, making the teeth vulnerable to tooth loss. Gum recession also exposes areas of the teeth that are usually covered by the gums, leaving these areas vulnerable to decay.
- Pockets along the gum line: As gum disease progresses, pockets may form between the gums and teeth. These pockets are caused by plaque and tartar collecting at the gum line. As more debris settles into the pockets, the pockets will grow larger. If left untreated, pockets can lead to tooth decay beneath the gum line and tooth loss.
- Spread of infection: The infection may spread beyond the gums, infecting the jawbone. As the gums and jawbone become damaged by infection, they lose the ability to support the teeth, ultimately leading to tooth loss.
- Tooth decay: Gum disease can increase the risk of tooth decay below the gum line. When decay reaches the tooth roots, the teeth are at increased risk of failure. Decay may become so severe that the tooth dies and falls out on its own or may require extraction.
Preventing Gum Disease and Tooth Loss
Proper dental care, including regular dental exams and good oral hygiene habits, are key to preventing gum disease and tooth loss. Brushing at least twice a day for a full two minutes can help keep plaque and tartar at bay, but brushing alone is not enough to prevent gum disease. Flossing is essential to gum health and should be done every day. When flossing, be sure to sweep the floss along each side of each tooth and as far along the gum line as possible to remove plaque where brushing can miss.
Discover Your Treatment Options
If you suffer from tooth loss, gum disease, or both, it's not too late to seek treatment. To learn more about your treatment options, we encourage you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Perry.