Stopping Tooth Loss From Periodontitis

One of the most emotionally traumatic dental experiences adults face is necessary tooth extractions. Sometimes teeth can’t be saved due to causes such as periodontitis, and it’s in the best interest of your overall oral health to have these teeth removed. Still, the idea of having gaps in your smile is disheartening and can feel embarrassing. Although missing teeth can be replaced, preventing the original problem that led to tooth loss is the best route to take.

Let’s talk about periodontitis, a stage of gum disease responsible for most cases of tooth loss in adults.

What is periodontitis, and is it the same as gum disease?

Terms like “gum disease” and “periodontitis” are sometimes used interchangeably, which can lead to confusion about your diagnosis and what it means.

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a common condition characterized by inflammation or infection of gum tissue. It occurs in stages, beginning with gingivitis and concluding with periodontitis. Your dentist may use words like mild, moderate, or advanced to describe the severity of the stage of gum disease. Studies show that nearly half of all adults have some level of gum disease.

Periodontitis is the most severe stage of gum disease that typically follows when gingivitis is left untreated. Gingivitis, or chronic gum inflammation, is usually caused by excessive plaque buildup along the gumline surrounding the teeth. When this plaque isn’t removed, it hardens into tartar (also known as calculus). This tartar is a haven for bacteria, and the bacteria releases substances irritating to the gums. The gums begin to pull away from the tartar, which is attached to the teeth. The pulling away of the gums creates pockets below the gumline, and the longer the tartar remains, the deeper those pockets will become. As the gum pockets deepen, more bacteria and plaque become trapped, and eventually, infection occurs.

When there is infection present, it indicates that your gum disease has advanced from gingivitis to periodontitis.

How does this disease cause tooth loss?

Like many people, you might assume most tooth loss in adults is caused by decay and cavities, but this isn’t actually correct. The shocking truth is that the leading cause of tooth loss in adults is gum disease—specifically, untreated periodontitis.

As mentioned earlier, gum disease causes the gum pockets to swell and deepen. Just like if you roll your ankle and the area around the joint becomes swollen, the same inflammatory effect is happening with your gums. Inflammation isn’t bad if it occurs in short bursts, but when inflammation becomes chronic, it encourages the development of infection.

In the case of gum disease, a vicious cycle occurs in which swollen and deep gum pockets trap even more plaque and bad bacteria, which triggers more inflammation and gum recession. These deepened gum pockets eventually allow bacteria and infection to reach your jawbone.

Very deep gum pockets can’t adequately support teeth, and tooth loss is inevitable once the infection reaches your jawbone. The only way to move forward is for unsavable teeth to be extracted, the infection to be treated, and missing teeth to be replaced with dental prosthetics.

What are the treatment options for periodontitis?

Advanced periodontitis can’t be reversed or cured, but it can be managed and treated. Having an experienced dentist by your side is essential for a successful recovery and minimized risks of relapse or related systematic health problems.

The first phase of treatment focuses on stopping the active infection. Your dentist might start you on a course of antibiotics, followed by a deep cleaning and assessment of what damage has been done. Unsavable teeth will need to be extracted, and any jawbone loss may require a future bone graft. Very deep and receded gum pockets usually require surgery to repair.

The second phase of treatment is intensive preventive care in the form of frequent perio therapy cleanings. These deep cleanings occur much more frequently than normal cleanings, and you’ll receive a local anesthetic to ensure you’re comfortable since the process is more invasive. At Ada Smile Place, we encourage nervous patients to request light sedation during these visits if they have dental anxiety.

In addition to professional treatment and management from your dentist, you also need to evaluate your at-home oral hygiene habits. Professional care alone won’t stop periodontitis; only a combination of excellent at-home care and treatments by a skilled dentist can prevent gum disease.

Here are a few things you can do to improve your recovery from gum disease:

  • Brush thoroughly, for a full two minutes, at least twice a day.
  • Floss daily, especially before bed or whenever you have food stuck between your teeth.
  • Eat a varied and balanced diet, and ask your primary care physician about supplementing with vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to your oral health.
  • Use oral care products designed for combating gum disease—ask your Ada dentist if you need recommendations.
  • Consider adding a powered toothbrush and Waterpik flossing system to your home dental care kit for more effective cleaning.

What can I do about tooth loss from this disease?

If you’ve had teeth removed because of periodontitis, you’ll be thrilled to know that several restorative solutions can fill the gaps.

Our team highly recommends dental implants for patients who have recovered from periodontitis and can safely undergo implant surgery. It’s a more complex procedure that requires a few months of healing, but their incredible advantages make it well worth the investment.

We also provide beautiful dental bridges or full and partial denture options when dental implants aren’t the right choice for your smile.

Don’t wait to report your gum disease symptoms to your dentist.

If you’re experiencing problems with your gums, including bleeding, tenderness, swelling, change in color, recession, or your teeth feel wiggly, get in touch with your dentist right away. Gum disease can develop rapidly, and the sooner you receive treatment, the less chance it will advance to periodontitis or you will need a tooth extraction.

Schedule an appointment with your favorite Ada Smile Place dentist today.