Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis (Gum Disease) and eventually lead to tooth loss and other health problems.
Gum Disease hides in your mouth, destroying gum tissue and teeth, and it can lead to strokes, heart attacks, Alzheimer’s disease and pregnancy complications. Don’t think it’s your problem? Conservative estimates report that up to 80 percent of the population unknowingly has Gum Disease in some form. Seventy percent of adult tooth loss is attributed to gum disease. Recent research shows a link between patients who have gum disease and those who suffer from strokes, heart attacks, or complications with diabetes or pregnancy.
Periodontal (gum) diseases, including gingivitis and periodontitis, are serious infections that, left untreated, can lead to tooth loss. The word periodontal literally means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Periodontal disease can affect one tooth or many teeth. It begins when the bacteria in plaque (the sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth) causes the gums to become inflamed.
Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease. It causes the gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort at this stage. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.
Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself, and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.
Any of the following conditions greatly exacerbate the risk of gum disease: smoking, tobacco use, hormone fluctuations, stress, some medications, bruxism, diabetes, poor nutrition, HIV, any disease resulting in immunosuppression, heredity, and poor oral hygiene. Even patients who practice good oral home care routines can get gum disease. Gums irritated by bacteria can recede from the teeth, creating deep pockets where more bacteria can hide and flourish.
Treating Gum Disease
Generally, treatment will include careful, individualized instruction regarding the most effective means of home care. Initial non-surgical periodontal therapy appointments followed by routine professional maintenance appointments at varying intervals will be your key to keeping this disease under control and can improve your chances of keeping your teeth for life. If gum disease progresses without intervention, surgery may be required to remediate the disease, but there could still be possible risk of tooth loss.