Periodontal disease is a problem for more than 47 percent of adults aged 30 or over, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In older adults, the condition is much more common, occurring in roughly 70 percent of people age 65 or older.
Research has long linked periodontal disease to bone loss in the jaw. And when the jawbone becomes less dense, the teeth no longer have the support they need. As a result, the teeth may become loose or even fall out.
To prevent that from happening to you and your family, learn more about periodontitis, its causes and treatment, and how to prevent it from developing in the first place.
What Causes Periodontal Disease?
Bacteria is the culprit — our mouths are full of it. Brushing and flossing, along with regular professional cleanings, can usually keep bacteria in check and stop it from forming plaque on the teeth.
But when plaque isn’t removed, it hardens into tartar. The longer plaque and tartar remain on your teeth, the more damage bacteria can do. Initially, bacteria cause the gums to become red and swollen. The gums may also bleed easily. This stage of periodontal disease is commonly referred to as gingivitis.
If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress into periodontitis. At this point, bacteria growth causes the gums to pull away from the teeth. As the condition worsens, infection spreads below the gumline, and eventually leads to tooth loss.
How Does Periodontal Disease Cause Bone Loss?
When plaque and tartar grow under the gumline, bacterial toxins begin breaking down the bone and connective tissues. The immune system reacts to fight the infection, but that alone won’t stop bone loss.
Without treatment, bacteria can penetrate deeper into the tooth roots and jawbone, which are no longer protected by healthy gums. As a result, the bone and gum tissues that hold your teeth in place are destroyed.
Besides tooth loss, bone deterioration in the jaw can cause a host of other serious dental issues. Patients may have difficulty with ill-fitting dentures, for example. The facial structure changes and you may experience problems with eating and speaking. In addition, oral surgery procedures may be riskier when patients have low jawbone density.
Preventing and Treating Periodontal Disease
Treatment to control the infection is essential to prevent gingivitis from advancing into full-blown periodontitis and bone loss in the jaw. A professional deep cleaning to remove tartar above and below the gumline is usually the first line of treatment. In some cases, an antibiotic mouth rinse, gel or oral tablet may also be recommended.
If the condition has progressed too far, oral surgery may be necessary. An oral surgeon can perform a procedure known as flap surgery to remove tartar deposits and reduce the size of the open gum spaces.
For patients who have already experienced significant bone loss, the surgeon may suggest a procedure to help regenerate the bone tissue. Bone grafting, which involves transplanting natural or synthetic tissue in the jaw, can help promote growth to provide better support for the teeth.
Prevention starts with maintaining a comprehensive oral health routine, but you may want to see one of our experienced oral surgeons for an evaluation of your gum health. We have three convenient office locations throughout the Salt Lake City area.
If you are you concerned about your risks for periodontal disease and bone loss, contact Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery of Utah today to schedule a professional consultation.