Imagine a house sitting on a foundation that is cracked and rotten. Eventually, the entire structure would suffer. Your smile is like that, too.
The foundation of teeth? Your gums! The gums cover arched protrusions from the upper and lower jaws. These arches, or ‘ridges,’ are what support natural tooth roots.
When oral bacteria buildup to a point beyond the ability of the immune system to manage, inflammation sets in. This inflammation continues to build as the oral bacteria become infectious.
Oral bacteria is the cause of cavities, gum disease, and a long list of health problems as vast research has shown. Because oral bacteria can become bloodborne through tears in diseased gum tissues, it can travel through the body. This means it can also cause inflammatory reactions that can have serious consequences.
For example, inflammatory triggers from gum disease bacteria have been linked to heart disease, stroke, some cancers, preterm babies, diabetes and arthritis. Research is studying links to Alzheimer’s disease, pancreatic cancer and prostrate cancer.
Gum disease is also the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss.
Yet, with all the dire associations, gum disease is one of the most prominent of all diseases in the U.S., with over 47 percent of adults having some level.
I believe that gum disease is so prevalent because so many Americans are unfamiliar with the symptoms. Let’s begin by understanding the phases of periodontal disease, which are:
• Gingivitis is the initial stage of gum disease. This causes gum inflammation which has been triggered by plaque buildup at the gum line. If daily brushing and flossing do not remove plaque, toxins form that cause irritation to the gum tissue. Some signs may include seeing blood in the sink when brushing teeth or having gum tenderness. At this stage, however, damage may still be reversed with prompt measures.
• Periodontitis (Gum Disease) takes place when the bone structures and fibers that support teeth endure permanent damage from infectious oral bacteria. At this stage, the gums may form pockets below the gum line, filling with food and plaque. With proper dental therapy and at-home oral hygiene, further damage may be avoided.
• Advanced Periodontitis is the advanced stage of gum disease where fibers and bone supporting your teeth are destroyed. This can cause teeth to shift or loosen, requiring aggressive treatment to prevent tooth loss.
An article in Harvard Health points out that:
Periodontal disease, characterized by receding gums, wobbly teeth, and deterioration of the jawbone, is the primary culprit in tooth loss among older adults. Age itself isn’t a cause, but the periodontal disease often slowly gets worse and goes undetected — and untreated — for decades, leading to more severe problems in the seventh decade of life and beyond. (https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-aging-mouth-and-how-to-keep-it-younger)
As a proponent of Dental Implants to replace missing teeth, I must acknowledge that there is no perfect replacement for natural teeth. Your teeth provide a stable, dependable means to chew and enjoy food while natural tooth roots help to keep the jaw bones that support them nurtured and stimulated.
Yet, the reason that Dental Implants are in such growing demand is largely because of their ability to halt bone loss. This bone loss, referred to as ‘resorption,’ occurs when tooth roots are no longer present in the jaw bone. The lack of nourishment and stimulation causes the bone to begin shrinking in mass.
Once resorption begins, it continues at an ever-increasing rate with each year. For those who wear a denture or partial, the pressure the appliance places on the bone ridge speeds the process up further. For those who sleep in their appliance, the 24/7 pressure accelerates this pace even more.
The thinning jaw bone leads to deep wrinkles around the mouth, a sunken in appearance of the mouth, jowls and a pointed chin (creating a ‘granny look’). Over time, it thins the jaw bone beyond what can adequate support a denture.
Because Dental Implants are positioned in the jaw bone, they recreate stimulation that helps them maintain healthy bone mass. They provide dependable, comfortable chewing and speaking ability. And, best of all, they’re designed to last a lifetime.
Remember, healthy gums are the foundation of your smile. If you’re experiencing any of the signs of gum disease as mentioned above, call us to schedule an examination. Gum disease will only worsen without treatment. Or, begin with a no-cost consultation to have your questions answered.