How Does Gum Disease Cause Tooth Loss?

Jan 23, 2017 @ 09:00 AM — by Lauren Shanard

An illustration of healthy gums and gums with periodontitisSome bleeding while brushing or flossing may not seem like a big deal, but it's actually a sign of gum disease. Gum disease is a serious oral health condition that can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. Fortunately, dental damage and tooth loss caused by gum disease can be treated with restorative dentistry, improving your oral health.

Although gum disease can be extremely damaging to your oral health, there are ways to protect your smile. By understanding how gum disease can lead to tooth loss, it's possible to take steps to protect your oral health. During patient consultations, Dr. Lauren J. Shanard explains the link between tooth loss and gum disease. Contact our Williston, VT office to schedule your personal consultation.

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection commonly caused by a buildup of plaque and tartar along the gum line. Gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease, results in bleeding gums when brushing and flossing, as well as gum inflammation. If left untreated, gingivitis may progress to periodontitis, the more severe stage of gum disease. Bleeding gums and the formation of periodontal pockets are common symptoms of periodontitis; these can lead to serious oral health problems.

How Does Gum Disease Lead to Tooth Loss?

There are multiple ways in which gum disease can lead to tooth loss. Some of the most notable include:

  • Periodontal pockets: Periodontal pockets develop as plaque, tartar, and food debris settle between the gums and teeth. Once pockets form, more plaque, tartar, and food debris will collect, causing the pockets to become larger. Periodontal pockets are of particular concern because they can allow bacteria and plaque to reach the roots, potentially resulting in root decay and tooth loss.
  • Gum recession: Gum recession can develop as a result of gum disease. As the gums recede, the delicate structures generally protected by the gums become exposed to bacteria, acids, and plaque. This can lead to tooth decay below the gum line, which can cause tooth loss when left untreated.
  • Spread of infection to supporting structures: As gum disease progresses, it may spread beyond the gums, infecting structures beneath the gum line that support the teeth, such as the jawbone.
  • Tooth decay: Gum disease increases the risk of tooth decay due to plaque and tartar buildup at and below the gum line. When left untreated, tooth decay can severely damage the teeth, causing painful root canal infections or even tooth loss.

Prevention and Treatment of Gum Disease

The most effective way to prevent gum disease is to practice good oral hygiene habits. Brushing at least twice a day for a full two minutes and flossing at least once a day are essential to preventing gum disease and protecting oral health. Rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash can further reduce the risk of gum disease, as can seeing a dentist every six months for a general checkup and cleaning.

Many treatments are available to restore gum health and eliminate gum disease. The type of treatment used will depend on the severity of the infection but may include any of the following:

  • Antibiotics: Those with minor gum disease may benefit from treatment with antibiotics in addition to proper oral hygiene habits. In some cases, antibiotics may be combined with other gum disease treatments for improved results.
  • Root planing and scaling: Root planing and scaling is a deep cleaning treatment used to close periodontal pockets and restore gum health.
  • Gum surgery: Gum surgery, including the flap procedure, may be necessary when gum disease has become severe.

Schedule a Consultation

Once gum disease has been treated, tooth loss or other dental health problems may be addressed. For those who have experienced tooth loss, dental implant treatment is available to permanently replace lost teeth. To learn more about your treatment options, we invite you to schedule a consultation with Dr. Shanard today.

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