February 26, 2020
While it is no secret that taking proper care of your teeth prevents cavities and decay, most people do not recognize the serious consequences if these problems are left untreated. One such result is gum disease, an infection that can lead to tooth loss, bone loss and systemic health problems. Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, results from a variety of reasons including genetics, smoking and other tobacco use, misaligned teeth, and poor oral hygiene. In fact, when your teeth are not properly cared for, bacteria will eat away at your teeth and gums and cause the gums to pull away from the teeth and recede. Left to its own devices, gum recession can even eat away at your jawbone.
Bone loss is a common byproduct of untreated gum disease. As the gums pull away from the teeth, small pockets are created that are ideal habitats for bacteria and stray food particles. These bacteria then migrate to the bone and as the bone tissue wears away, tooth loss, craters and other symptoms of severe deterioration begin to occur.
The first effective step in treating bone loss is treating gum disease itself. Your dentist will start the process with a thorough visual examination and digital imaging of your mouth. Next, the infection is cleared with a minimally invasive laser procedure that removes plaque and harmful bacteria in order to restore vibrant oral health. This is a gentle procedure with minimal to no bleeding, pain or swelling. When the infection has been treated and if bone or tooth loss has occurred, your dentist might suggest replacing any missing teeth with dentures or permanent dental implants.What about bone density and related concerns related to gum disease? The portion of the jawbone supporting our teeth is known as the alveolar process, and loss of alveolar bone is directly linked to an increase in loose teeth and tooth loss, and other dental problems as well. For example, older women with osteoporosis may have difficulty with loose or ill-fitting dentures and experience less optimal outcomes from oral surgical procedures.
Periodontitis (gum disease) is a chronic infection affecting the gums and bones supporting the teeth. Bacteria and the body’s own immune system break down bone and connective tissue holding teeth in place, resulting in teeth loosening, falling out, or requiring extraction.Tooth loss is a common and oft-studied consequence of periodontitis, but the relationship between periodontitis and skeletal bone density is less clear. Some studies have found a direct relationship between bone loss, periodontitis, and tooth loss. It is also possible that loss of bone mineral density leaves bone susceptible to bacteria and increased risk of periodontitis and tooth loss.
Healthy gums are firm and pale pink, nestled snuggly around your teeth. If you experience any of the following signs and symptoms, you may have periodontitis and should visit your dentist immediately:
Additional research is underway to fully understand the relationship between osteoporosis and oral bone loss; however, scientists believe that efforts to optimize skeletal bone density will have an equally favorable impact on dental health.
To keep your teeth and bones strong, a healthy lifestyle is critical. In fact, you can make many simple but highly effective life changes to optimize bone health:
And always follow your dentist's recommended schedule for checkups. If you notice any symptoms of periodontitis, make an appointment right away. The sooner you seek care, the better your chances of reversing the effects of gum disease.