A periodontist is a dentist who focuses primarily on conditions affecting the tissues surrounding the teeth, especially the gums. Gum disease can spread and affect other areas of the mouth, including the teeth and even the jawbone. If allowed to progress without treatment, it can cause tooth loss and other serious complications.
Regular flossing, brushing, and dental cleanings can help prevent gum disease from occurring in the first place. However, once it develops, it may require treatment by a periodontist.
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease begins when plaque on the teeth hardens along the gum line. Brushing and flossing are fairly effective at removing plaque before it hardens into tartar. However, once tartar has formed, it becomes more difficult to remove because of its consistency and location.
Tartar starts to irritate the gum tissue surrounding the teeth. The irritated tissue starts to pull away, forming spaces or gaps called pockets to form between the gums and teeth. The pockets provide a place for bacteria to grow, causing an infection of the gum tissue. As the pockets of bacteria become deeper, the infection can start to affect the jawbone.
Gum disease progresses through stages. The first stage is gingivitis, which can cause the gums to bleed easily and become swollen and red. Gingivitis causes no irreversible damage and can be treated with proper oral hygiene. However, the symptoms can be mild to nonexistent, allowing the disease to progress to a point where more advanced treatment by a periodontist is necessary.
How does gum disease affect the teeth and jaw?
Because all the structures of the mouth are connected, periodontal disease does not remain confined to the gums. Here are some of the effects it can have on the teeth and jaw.
In the early stages, the patient may not experience any symptoms of gum disease and remain unaware that treatment is needed. However, as the disease progresses, it can cause pain in the teeth, especially when biting or chewing.
The gums help to hold the teeth in place within the mouth. As gum disease progresses, the teeth may begin to loosen or separate. This can affect the patient's bite, making eating and chewing more difficult.
As the bacterial infection extends deeper, it can start to attack the jawbone itself. The jawbone becomes weaker as a result and eventually starts to break down.
The teeth are firmly rooted in the jaw, but as the bone becomes weaker, it is no longer able to provide adequate support. Eventually, the jaw may deteriorate to the point that it can no longer hold the teeth in place. Tooth loss can occur as a result.
As periodontal disease progresses, it extends beyond the gums to affect the teeth and jaws. With advanced gum disease, a periodontist may have to resort to more advanced treatment methods. It is not always possible to save the patient's teeth if the gum disease is severe. Therefore, it is preferable to start treatment in the early stages or prevent it altogether.
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