Gum disease is a common problem, and it can cause many complications, including tooth loss. Because it can affect both the gums and jawbone, untreated gum disease can quickly affect your smile, as well as your overall health.
If you believe you have gum disease, or you are ready to seek treatment, check out these questions to help you learn more.
How Does Gum Disease Increase the Risk of Tooth Loss?
Gum disease begins by irritating gums, causing mild to moderate swelling, redness, bleeding, and pain. If left untreated, the gums may continue to recede from the teeth. This creates pockets, or small gaps, which can harbor bacteria; it also causes the tooth's root to become exposed as the gum tissue dies.
This process increases the risk of a cavity and/or infection, because it exposes more of the tooth to bacteria.
If you refuse to seek treatment, the affected teeth may die or rot away from the decay or infection. You will also likely notice that your teeth are looser with fewer gum tissue and ligaments to hold them in place. The teeth may even begin to shift slightly, creating new gaps.
In addition, untreated gum disease can spread to the jawbone. Once the jawbone is affected, the risk of tooth loss increases because the jawbone starts to deteriorate from the infection. This situation makes it difficult for the jaw bone to support teeth.
Can Gum Disease Be Reversed or Treated?
When you first get gum disease, it usually starts out as gingivitis, which is the mild form. Gingivitis is reversible because the symptoms are mild. As the infection clears, the gums become less painful and swollen, and the small pockets reclose as you keep your teeth clean.
Whether you have gingivitis or periodontitis, treatment begins by ensuring your teeth get and stay clean. This usually involves professional deep cleanings, at-home care, and antibiotics. This level of treatment may be all you need to treat and reverse gingivitis.
To treat larger pockets quickly, your dentist may recommend a flap surgery, which allows the gums to be surgically repositioned.
If tissue has been lost, a graft may be necessary. A gum graft can be used to add tissue to your gums, while a bone graft can make your jawbone strong again, so you stop losing teeth.
What's the Best Way to Prevent Gum Disease?
After you’ve beaten gum disease, you’ll want to prevent your gums from becoming infected again. Aside from regular dental cleanings, brushing twice a day, and flossing daily, you can do several other things to promote healthy gums. Use these tips to keep your gums healthy and your smile bright.
- Replace your toothbrush regularly. Healthline recommends buying a new toothbrush or toothbrush head every three months. A fresh brush will clean your teeth and gums more effectively since the bristles can wear out and accumulate bacteria over time.
- Rinse with mouthwash. If your oral hygiene routine ends with brushing and flossing, you’re missing out. Adding mouthwash to your regimen not only freshens your breath but combats gum disease too. Use a brand that is alcohol-free and carries the ADA seal of approval.
- Eat healthy foods. Certain foods have been shown to promote gum health. Some of these foods include onions, peppers, oranges, shiitake mushrooms, milk, carrots, and apples. In general, consume lots of calcium-rich and vitamin C–rich foods. Crunchy foods also help to scrub and clean your teeth.
For more information on protecting your gum health at home, talk to your dentist.
Gum disease affects many Americans, and treatment begins with regular, professional cleanings and good oral hygiene. If you're ready to seek treatment, contact us today at Couchman Center for Complete Dentistry.