Last Updated on June 8, 2023 by Beth Skwarecki
Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, is a serious oral health condition affecting the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. It is caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth, leading to inflammation, infection, and, ultimately, tooth loss if left untreated. Maintaining good oral health is crucial for preventing periodontal disease and preserving teeth.
In this article, we will explore the causes and symptoms of periodontal disease, the stages of the condition, risk factors for tooth loss, prevention strategies, and the question of how long you can keep your teeth with periodontal disease.
What Is Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bones supporting the teeth. It is caused by the buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth, which can lead to inflammation and damage to the gums and bone if left untreated. Periodontal disease can range from mild gingivitis to more severe periodontitis, which can cause tooth loss and other health complications if not properly managed.
Causes of Periodontal Disease
The primary cause of periodontal disease is the buildup of plaque on the teeth, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth and gums. Other factors that can contribute to the development of periodontal disease include:
- Genetics: Some people may be more susceptible to periodontal disease due to genetic factors.
- Lifestyle Factors: Poor diet, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption can increase the risk of developing periodontal disease.
- Medical Conditions: Certain conditions, such as diabetes and autoimmune disorders, can increase the risk of developing periodontal disease.
- Hormonal Changes: Changes during pregnancy or menopause can increase the risk of developing periodontal disease.
- Medications: Certain medications, such as anticonvulsants and some blood pressure medications, can increase the risk of developing periodontal disease.
- Stages: Periodontal disease can progress through several stages, each with its own set of symptoms and treatment options:
- Gingivitis: This is the earliest stage of periodontal disease and is characterized by inflammation of the gums. Symptoms include red, swollen, and bleeding gums, but there is no bone loss at this stage. Gingivitis can often be reversed with good oral hygiene practices and regular dental cleanings.
- Periodontitis: If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis, which involves the destruction of the bone and tissues that support the teeth. Symptoms include receding gums, pockets between the teeth and gums, and loose teeth. Treatment options for periodontitis may consist of scaling and root planing, antibiotics, and in some cases, surgery.
- Advanced Periodontitis: This is the most severe stage of periodontal disease and is characterized by significant bone loss and mobility of the teeth. Treatment options may include gum grafts, bone grafts, and tooth extractions.
Risk Factors For Tooth Loss With Periodontal Disease
If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss. Several risk factors can increase the likelihood of tooth loss with periodontal disease, including:
- The Severity Of Periodontal Disease: The more advanced the stage of periodontal disease, the higher the risk of tooth loss.
- Age: As we age, our teeth become more susceptible to periodontal disease and tooth loss.
- Poor Oral Hygiene: Not brushing and flossing regularly can lead to the buildup of plaque and tartar, which can worsen periodontal disease and increase the risk of tooth loss.
- Smoking: Smoking can increase the risk of periodontal disease and tooth loss.
- Medical Conditions: Certain conditions, such as diabetes and autoimmune disorders, can increase the risk of periodontal disease and tooth loss.
- Stress: High levels of stress can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to periodontal disease and tooth loss.
- Poor Nutrition: A diet lacking essential nutrients can weaken teeth and gums, making them more susceptible to periodontal disease and tooth loss.
How To Prevent Periodontal Disease And Tooth Loss
Preventing periodontal disease and tooth loss involves adopting healthy oral hygiene practices and lifestyle changes. Here are some steps you can take:
- Brush And Floss Regularly: Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time, and floss at least once daily to remove plaque and prevent the buildup of tartar.
- Use An Antiseptic Mouthwash: Use a mouthwash that kills bacteria and helps reduce plaque buildup.
- Get Regular Dental Checkups: Visit your dentist every six months for a checkup and professional cleaning to remove tartar and monitor your oral health.
- Quit Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of periodontal disease and tooth loss, so quitting smoking can significantly reduce your risk.
- Eat A Healthy Diet: Eating a balanced diet low in sugar and high in fruits and vegetables can help prevent periodontal disease by providing your body with the nutrients it needs to maintain healthy gums and teeth.
- Manage Medical Conditions: If your medical condition increases your risk of periodontal disease, work with your healthcare provider to manage it effectively.
- Treat Periodontal Disease Promptly: If you experience symptoms, seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent it from progressing to more advanced stages and causing tooth loss.
How Long Can You Keep Your Teeth With Periodontal Disease?
Periodontal disease depends on several factors, including the severity of the disease, your overall oral health, and your commitment to treatment and prevention.
If caught early and treated promptly, periodontal disease can often be managed, and teeth can be preserved for many years. However, tooth loss may be inevitable if the disease has progressed to an advanced stage. In some cases, teeth severely damaged by periodontal disease may need to be extracted to prevent further damage to surrounding teeth and gums.
The best way to prevent tooth loss due to periodontal disease is to practice good oral hygiene habits, get regular dental checkups, and seek treatment as soon as possible if you experience bleeding gums, bad breath, or loose teeth.
How To Reverse Periodontal Disease
Reversing periodontal disease involves a combination of professional dental treatments and good oral hygiene practices at home. Here are some steps that can help:
- Professional Dental Cleanings: A dental professional can remove plaque and tartar buildup, which contribute to periodontal disease.
- Scaling And Root Planing: This deep cleaning procedure can remove bacteria and smooth rough spots on tooth roots to help the gums reattach to the teeth.
- Antibiotic Therapy: Antibiotics can be used to kill harmful bacteria in the mouth that contribute to periodontal disease.
- Laser Therapy: Laser treatments can help remove infected tissue and promote the healing of the gums.
- Surgery: In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to remove damaged tissue and reduce the depth of periodontal pockets.
- Good Oral Hygiene Practices: Brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and using an antiseptic mouthwash can help remove plaque and prevent the progression of periodontal disease.
- Quit Smoking: Tobacco use can worsen periodontal disease and make it harder to treat, so quitting smoking can improve the chances of successful treatment.
Periodontal disease is a common oral health condition that can lead to tooth loss if left untreated. However, with proper oral hygiene habits, regular dental checkups, and prompt treatment, many cases of periodontal disease can be managed, and teeth can be preserved for years to come. It is important to work closely with your dental provider to develop a personalized treatment plan that addresses your specific needs and goals for oral health. By preventing periodontal disease and seeking treatment promptly if symptoms occur, you can help protect your oral health and preserve your teeth.
Beth is Cloudmineinc’s senior health editor and a certified personal trainer. She has over 10 years experience as a science journalist and is the author of two books. She deadlifts over 315 lbs.