Gum disease affects many Americans, but as it advances to periodontitis, you may experience more than painful, bleeding gums. As the disease worsens, it drastically increases the risk of tooth loss. If your dentist has recently diagnosed you with gum disease, or if you suspect your gums are inflamed or infected, check out these three facts regarding tooth loss and periodontitis.

Periodontitis Destroys Gums and Bone  

As the name suggests, gum disease affects the gums. Irritated by plaque, tartar, and bacteria, gums may begin to recede. As the disease advances, this recession worsens. It may cause small pockets to appear between the gum and tooth, creating a hiding spot for bacteria. Gums may also thin, causing tooth root to appear. Exposing the tooth root, which is not protected by enamel, increases the risk of decay. The ligaments holding the teeth may also weaken, making them loose. Periodontitis doesn't stop at the gums, however. If left untreated, it may spread to the jawbone, causing it to weaken and shrink. If it shrinks too much, it may not be able to support teeth.

There Are Treatment Options Available

While periodontitis isn't reversible, there are treatment options to repair the gums/jawbone and reduce the symptoms. To start, you must control the infection with good oral hygiene, including home and professional cleaning. The dentist will likely recommend scaling and root planing, which cleans the pockets. Your dentist may also suggest or prescribe special mouthwash, antibiotics, etc. If your gums or jawbone has been affected, surgical options are also available. To fix large pockets, the dentist can perform gum flap surgery to reposition the gums flush against the teeth again. To repair thinning gums, a gum graft may be necessary, and to add volume to the jawbone, a bone graft is often performed.

Tooth Replacement Options May Be Limited

With advanced gum disease, the risk of losing teeth increases. Unfortunately, tooth replacement options may be limited if your gum disease isn't under control. In most cases, your dentist will still suggest dentures. This is because dentures are the best option for a weak jawbone and infected gums. A dental bridge may put too much strain on anchor teeth, causing them to become looser, leading to more tooth loss. A dental implant doesn't require healthy anchor teeth, but it doesn't require a healthy jawbone to support it. Plus, even implants can be affected by infected gums. The gums may recede to expose the titanium implant.  

If you have gum disease, mild or advanced, you should start dental treatment immediately. While gum disease may only start off as a mild irritant, it can quickly advance to missing teeth. If you would like more information about gum disease treatment, contact a dentist in your area today.