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What You Should Know About Gum Disease

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Gum disease may not be a normal part of aging, but many older Americans struggle with this condition due to poor oral hygiene. At first, gum disease may only cause mild irritation, but if left untreated, it can begin to affect the jawbone supporting your teeth.

If you suspect you may have gum disease, seek treatment early. Check out these questions to learn as much as you can about gum disease and treatment options.

What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?

When gum disease first develops, it is usually a mild form known as gingivitis, and at this stage, symptoms may only appear when you are brushing, flossing, eating, or touching your teeth.

Common symptoms of early gingivitis include: swelling, redness, tenderness. and bleeding. As the disease advances, however, it may develop into periodontitis, which has more severe symptoms, including: pus, new spaces between teeth as teeth move, gum recession pain when chewing, loose teeth, and bad breath. At this point, your gums may hurt or bleed even when you aren't touching them.  

Why Is Gum Recession a Major Threat?

One of the biggest problems with gum disease is gum recession, which occurs when the gums become irritated (due to infection, plaque, tartar, bacteria, etc.) and pull away from the teeth. At first, this recession may create small pockets or gaps between teeth and gums: a perfect place for bacteria and plaque to gather.

If gum recession continues, the tissue may start to die, increasing the risk of loose teeth. At this stage, teeth are also more prone to sensitivity, decay, or infection because more unprotected tooth root is exposed.

How Does Advanced Gum Disease Affect the Jawbone?

If you do not seek treatment for your gum disease and it advances to periodontitis, it may begin to attack the jawbone. Your jawbone begins to weaken and lose volume, making it harder to support healthy teeth.

This weakening causes more teeth to become loose, and they may be more likely to fall out or break when exposed to chewing or grinding. As you continue to lose more teeth, your jawbone loses volume faster.

What Are the Treatment Options for Gum Disease?

Treatment for gingivitis starts by taking great care of your teeth at home with regular daily cleaning and professional cleanings. To clean the pockets, you will likely need a deep cleaning with scaling and root planing, and antibiotic medication, mouthwash, chips, etc. may be recommended.

If your gum disease has advanced, however, surgical treatments may be needed to correct the symptoms. A bone graft can help strengthen a jawbone, and a gum graft and/or gum flap surgery corrects receded gums and pockets.

What About Tooth-Replacement Options?

If you have lost teeth due to gum disease, there are tooth-replacement options, but dentures are the only recommended choice if your gum disease is untreated because they don't need a strong jawbone.

If you do seek treatment, and the dentist determines your mouth is healthy enough, you may be a good candidate for a dental bridge or dental implant. A dental bridge uses healthy teeth for support, and dental implants use the jawbone (like natural teeth), which is why you need healthy gums and a healthy jawbone for these options to succeed.

Gum disease is common, but if left untreated, it can start to affect your jawbone and cause major tooth loss. Treatment is available and should begin as soon as you spot the first signs of gingivitis, so you don't have to pay for expensive surgical corrective procedures. For more information about gum disease or treatment options, contact us today at Pierpan Dentistry.