Your gums are the foundation of your smile. These pink soft tissues may not get much attention or praise, but they play a crucial role in keeping your teeth stable and healthy. Did you know that the leading cause of tooth loss in the United States is gum disease?
If you’ve been diagnosed with gum disease, don’t let that scare you. Gum disease progresses in stages, and it is easily reversed if caught early by your dentist. However, if early gum disease (or gingivitis) is left untreated, the condition can worsen enough to take out your permanent teeth. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight, but you should understand the serious chain of events that can occur when you ignore red, puffy and bleeding gums for too long.
The Progression of Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease can begin small, or with a minor setback in your oral hygiene. In most cases, gum disease starts with the presence of excess bacteria, plaque and food debris that isn’t removed with regular brushing and flossing. When plaque builds up along the gum line, it irritates and inflames these soft tissues. At this early stage of gingivitis, you may experience bleeding and notice that your gums look more red or swollen than usual.
When gingivitis is left untreated, it can advance to periodontitis. This is when your gum disease becomes more serious. In periodontitis, the gums become more infected and irritated. The gums can even start to pull away from the tooth roots and form deep pockets, which harbors more bacteria and feeds the infection. While your body’s immune system will be triggered to fight the infection, the plaque can continue spread and grow below the gum line if treatment is not initiated.
When Gum Disease Threatens Tooth Stability
In advanced or untreated gum disease, the structures that keep your teeth in place can begin to deteriorate. This happens when bacteria below the gum line produces toxins that combine with your body’s infection-fighting enzymes to cause a breakdown of bone and connective tissue. At this stage of advanced periodontitis, you may notice that your teeth feel loose or unstable. Tooth loss becomes a real possibility at this stage.
Are You At Risk?
No one wants to lose their adult teeth – we only get one set of teeth for our lifetime. Beyond recognizing the early signs of gum disease, we also encourage patients to know their personal risk for periodontal disease, which can involve the following range of factors:
- Hormonal Changes
- Certain Medications
- Family History
- Brushing and Flossing Habits
At Rivers + Tanner Family Dentistry, we take gum disease seriously. Not only is your smile at stake, but your overall health can also be compromised when gum disease goes undetected and/or untreated. Call our Mt Pleasant dentists today to schedule an appointment to evaluate your gum health.