The Connection Between Gum Disease and Bone Loss
By definition, gum disease is an inflammation of gum tissue. However, its effects can be far more damaging and wide-reaching, especially when disease progresses into nearby teeth and bone. In fact, uncontrolled gum disease can cause the continual loss of bone tissue, permanently impacting the strength and structure of the jaw.
By learning the long-term effects of gum disease and what you can do to prevent them, you can take a proactive approach to your dental and general health. Keep the below information in mind, and if you require periodontal treatment, our Brooklyn cosmetic dentistry center is ready to help.
Gingivitis vs. Periodontitis
When gum disease first forms, it is known as gingivitis. At this stage, gum tissue is inflamed from bacteria and its biofilm, plaque, which accumulates between teeth and gums. Although mild gingivitis does not pose a large threat to dental health initially, it can continue to damage gums and spread over time. Symptoms of gingivitis include reddened and swollen gums, bad breath, light bleeding when brushing or flossing, and a receding gum line.
When a bacterial infection of the gums spreads to bone tissue in the jaw, gum disease advances into a form known as periodontitis. Although not all gingivitis will progress into the bone, all cases of periodontitis originate as gingivitis. At this stage, the gums will likely have deep pockets of infection and will have begun to pull away from teeth. Bone tissue will also begin to degrade, leading to a reduction in jaw structure and the loosening of teeth. When left untreated, periodontitis can lead to decay within the root canal, and eventual tooth loss.
Preventing Bone Loss
The best way to keep your jaw healthy and strong is to prevent gum disease from ever occurring or progressing to the bone. In most cases, gum disease can be controlled or avoided altogether through proper hygiene. Daily brushing and flossing habits, along with regular dental exams and cleanings, are necessary in the prevention of bacterial build-up and thus disease.
Unfortunately, some patients are simply at a greater risk of gum disease. Factors such as a genetic predisposition, tobacco use, and diseases such as diabetes can increase one’s susceptibility to gingivitis and periodontitis. As a result, additional treatment may be needed to combat advancing gum disease:
- Deep cleaning: Once gums have begun to pull away from teeth and pockets have formed, a deep cleaning may be necessary to treat infection. Plaque and tartar will be removed from beneath the gums, and the roots of teeth will be made smoother to encourage healing between tooth and gum tissue.
- Flap surgery: When deep pockets of infection have formed, the gums may need to be pulled back to reach infection before it compromises the underlying bone tissue. Once infected tissue has been cleaned and treated with antibiotics, the gums will be reattached and sutured in place.
Restoring Lost Bone Tissue
If you have suffered from bone loss as a result of periodontitis, the change in jaw structure can have a noteworthy and permanent impact on your facial appearance. More importantly, a weakened jaw can prohibit dental implants from being installed, thereby limiting an effective method of tooth replacement. In order to restore lost tissue and strengthen the jaw, a bone graft procedure may be recommended.
A bone graft utilizes extra tissue, often obtained from elsewhere on a patient’s body, to reinforce the jaw. After making an incision in the gum tissue, the dentist or periodontist will insert the bone graft over preexisting tissue, which will be held in place through screws or an artificial membrane. The incision will then be closed over the graft, leaving it to heal naturally. Once fully healed, a patient’s jaw can often support dental implants, which further prevent bone loss and even encourage regenerative growth in some cases.
Learn More about the Risks of Gum Disease
Gum disease can lead to serious health complications, but only if it is allowed to spread. Visit your dentist regularly to keep disease in check or to learn about possible treatment options. Schedule an appointment with us today!