Understanding the Causes and Risks of Gum Disease

Understanding the Causes and Risks of Gum Disease

Almost half of all adults over 30 will experience some level of gum disease, or periodontitis, in their lifetime. Globally, it’s estimated to affect nearly half of the world’s population. The good news is, periodontitis has few long-term side effects if detected and treated early. However, if you ignore the signs of gum disease and fail to seek treatment, it can have severe implications, including tooth loss.

 

Here’s what you should know about the causes and risks of gum disease.

What is Gum Disease?

Periodontitis is a serious infection in the gums. The build-up of plaque and tartar on your teeth, caused by poor dental hygiene, creates an environment where bad bacteria thrive. That bacteria, along with the “good” bacteria your immune system releases to fight them, will over time break down the connective tissue and bones that hold your teeth in place. Eventually, gum disease can lead to tooth loss.

 

Healthy gums feel firm and are snug around the teeth, while someone with gum disease will notice puffiness, tenderness, bleeding, bad breath, pus, loose teeth, tooth loss, discomfort when chewing, pockets around the teeth, and receding gums. If you have any of these symptoms, you might be suffering from gum disease. 

 

Gum disease is easily diagnosed by a dentist or dental hygienist, and so is gum inflammation, which we call gingivitis. Gingivitis is a precursor to severe gum disease and is considered the mildest form of gum disease. Here’s what you need to know about how gingivitis begins and how it can advance into periodontitis if not treated properly. 

Causes of Gum Disease

The biggest cause of gum disease is not brushing and flossing often enough, which leads to the build-up of plaque. Plaque is a sticky film that contains bacteria and food particles. Brushing and flossing twice a day helps keep plaque at a minimum, but poor dental hygiene leads to the build-up of plaque (and the bacteria it contains), which leads to the gum inflammation and bleeding associated with gingivitis. 

 

If you don’t brush, floss, and rinse for some period of time, plaque starts to build up on the surface of your teeth, releasing acid that damages the outer shell known as enamel. This marks the beginning of tooth decay. In these early stages, plaque can be easily removed and gingivitis is easily reversible with consistent brushing and flossing. If left unchecked, however, gingivitis will begin to turn into periodontitis. 

 

In just 72 hours, plaque begins to harden into tartar, which is a hard layer that will begin to grow along your gum line. Tartar makes it impossible to thoroughly clean your teeth and gums unless it is scraped away by a dentist. The build-up of plaque and tarter starts to worsen a person’s dental hygiene, inflame the gums, and eventually pull the gum and bone away from the teeth.

 

With gum disease, pockets start to form between the teeth and gums, which opens the door to more plaque, tartar, and bacteria. As gum disease goes untreated, the bacteria release enzymes that break down the bone and tissue that hold your teeth in place. That’s how gum disease leads to loose teeth and, eventually, tooth loss. 

Reversing Gum Disease

Gingivitis and periodontitis are easily prevented with proper dental hygiene. Gingivitis is also easily reversible, so if you begin to notice some mild inflammation and bleeding, you probably just need to start brushing and flossing better. Check in with your dentist and they’ll let you know if you’re experiencing gingivitis and what you can do to treat it.

 

With that in mind, while gingivitis can often be reversed by merely improving dental hygiene, periodontitis is not so easily reversible. Treating periodontitis also requires improved dental hygiene, but brushing and flossing alone cannot remove the hard layers of tartar that begin to form at the gum line. Advanced gum disease will also cause pockets in the gums and these pockets must be cleaned out with special scaling tools. 

 

If you think you have periodontitis, you should schedule an appointment. Your dentist can perform a deep cleaning of your teeth in order to clean the visible tooth surface and go below the gum line to clean out any pockets. For someone who has severe periodontitis that has led to the destruction of bone or soft tissue, or the loss of teeth, seeing an oral surgeon is the best option.

How an Oral Surgeon Can Treat Periodontitis

Periodontitis can lead to the destruction of soft tissue and bones that support the teeth, causing loose teeth and tooth loss. Tooth loss is irreversible, but modern dentistry allows oral surgeons to reconstruct a healthy smile using implants and other methods of restoration.

 

If you’re suffering from periodontitis and it has led to the loss of soft tissue, bone, or teeth, an oral surgeon can help restore your healthy smile and your confidence. In our next article, we’ll explore all of the methods and techniques used in oral surgery to successfully restore the smiles of those who have suffered from periodontitis. 

 

At our clinic, we employ the latest technology and tools to speed recovery and restore oral health for patience experiencing periodontitis. If you have questions about gum disease or the best treatment path for you, contact Oral Surgery DC for more information.

  • Short title: Causes and Risks of Gum Disease
  • Teaser: Learn how gingivitis can turn into periodontitis, and how an oal surgeon can help.  
  • Summary: Gingivitis is a precursor to periodontitis, which is a severe gum disease. Over time, infectious bacteria break down the connective tissue and bones that hold your teeth in place. Periodontitis can lead to the destruction of soft tissue and bones that support the teeth, causing loose teeth and tooth loss. Tooth loss is irreversible, but modern dentistry allows oral surgeons to reconstruct a healthy smile using implants and other methods of restoration.
  • Excerpt: Periodontitis can lead to the destruction of soft tissue and bones that support the teeth, causing loose teeth and tooth loss. Tooth loss is irreversible, but modern dentistry allows oral surgeons to reconstruct a healthy smile using implants and other methods of restoration.
  • Tags: Oral surgeon, oral surgery, gum disease, periodontitis, gingivitis, tooth loss, tooth decay, plaque, tartar, enamel

 

Image credits: Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels.

 

6 Ways Oral Surgeons Can Help Improve Your Quality of Life

When most people think about visiting the oral surgeon, it’s usually prompted by a pressing dental issue that needs to be addressed, such as wisdom teeth removal, or having dental reconstruction after an accident.

Although those are important and valid reasons to visit the oral surgeon, the reality is, oral surgeons also can help you improve your quality of life in a wide variety of situations, and maybe even a few you might not be aware of.

Tooth loss, for example, can affect your quality of life for normal oral function such as eating and drinking, and even extend to speaking and self-esteem. Through various approaches, an oral surgeon can quickly and effectively address many issues you may be experiencing and get you back to your normal life.

If you’re having problems with your mouth but have been held back from seeking solutions because of cost or fear, take a moment to consider the benefits of oral surgery.

Here’s a look at common procedures performed by an Oral Surgeon and how they can improve your overall quality of life:

 

Dental Implants

If you are missing a tooth or several teeth, dental implants not only improve the aesthetics of the mouth, but also restore functionality – improving overall quality of life.

A study by Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine found that osteoporotic women with dental implants compared to those who have missing teeth and use removable dentures, experienced a significantly higher quality of life in every aspect including occupational, emotional, and sexual health.

With dental implants, a medical-grade titanium post is inserted into the jaw replacing the missing tooth root. Over 3-6 months, the titanium osseointegrates with the bone, providing a solid foundation on which to attach an abutment and then the fabricated tooth, or crown. Not only do the implants look like natural teeth, but also with proper care, they can last a lifetime.

 

Sleep Apnea

Many who struggle with sleep apnea spend their nights attached to a sleep mask or hose to help ease the symptoms. However, through the use of laser technology, it is possible to decrease the excess tissue at the back of the mouth, keeping the airway clear while sleeping. The best part is that with the use of laser, there is no cutting or recovery period involved; the procedure is touchless and done in office, with each session lasting about 20-30 minutes. Most patients see improvement after 3-5 sessions.

If you’re experience severe symptoms of sleep apnea, it may be time to seek the help of an oral surgeon. They can help get rid of unnecessary tissue from the back of your throat, which often exacerbates sleep apnea symptoms.

After the removal, most patients find they are able to breathe more easily, and, as a result, sleep better.

 

Bone and Gum Grafting

Bone and gum grafting is sometimes necessary for people who have ignored missing teeth for a period of years.

This is because a missing tooth root can lead to a loss or melting away of the adjacent bone and tissue. Similar to how beach grass is often planted to abate beach erosion, tooth roots serve to anchor bone in the jaw.

If you already have a missing tooth and would like to have a dental implant placed, an oral surgeon will first determine if adequate bone is available to anchor the implant. Modern 3D scanning allows for precision bone measurement and a determination can quickly be made if a bone graft is needed before placement of the dental implant.

 

Reconstructive Surgery

Those who have suffered traumatic facial injuries from an accident or who have experienced losing several teeth may find it hard to complete everyday tasks such as speaking, eating, and drinking.

Reconstructive surgery, however, can help you replace damaged teeth, correct issues with your jaw, and address gum damage.

The starting point is a CT scan which will provide a 3D representation of the mouth and surrounding structures. Depending on the complexity of the case, your oral surgeon may recommend the procedure be undertaken in a hospital setting which provides a full range of anesthesia and surgical support options that maybe needed.

 

Biopsies

Sometimes, a routine visit to the dentist may find an unusual lesion, growth, or discoloration in the oral cavity, in which case you may be referred for a biopsy. Lesions are not always bad, however, a diagnosis cannot be made by visual inspection and x-ray imaging alone, so you may be referred to an oral surgeon for a biopsy.

A biopsy involves removing a small sample of the tissue from your mouth and sending it to a lab for analysis. Depending on the location of the lesion in the mouth, numbing medication maybe used for comfort. If access to the biopsy area is needed underneath the gum, a surgical procedure may be required, and this is sometimes done under sedation (put-to-sleep) for the procedure.

The lab is usually able to analyze the sample and issue results in 7-14 days, which provides a diagnosis for the issue, and the surgeon will then discuss treatment options. Starting treatment early leads to better prognosis and outcomes.

 

Jaw Surgeries

Jaw surgery can be necessary in a variety of circumstances: for an improperly aligned jaw, to correct issues with swallowing, or to minimize excessive breakdown of your teeth, to name a few.

An oral surgeon can assess your jaw and any symptoms you may be experiencing to let you know if surgery will correct it. By addressing the problem head on, you can ensure a lifetime of a happy, healthy mouth with restored tooth and jaw function.

 

In need of help?

If you find yourself experiencing any of the issues discussed above, or others related to oral health that aren’t listed here, contact us today. We’d love to set up a consultation to offer our expert advice for improving your health and quality of life.

 

Image credit: Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels