Sometimes, when you get sick, there’s really not much you can do about it. When you’re dealing with the common cold, the best you can do is rest up and wait for the virus to pass. In other cases, an illness won’t just resolve on its own and letting it “do its thing” can cause more problems in the long run.
Gum and bone disease is an example of a illness that should be treated ASAP. While the condition might not seem like such a big deal in the beginning, left untreated, it can cause considerable problems not only in your mouth, but throughout the entire body.
How Gum and Bone Disease Progresses
The earliest stage of gum and bone disease is called gingivitis. When a person has gingivitis, their gums might bleed easily and be inflamed and swollen. The American Academy of Periodontology points out that gingivitis often doesn’t cause any discomfort and might have few symptoms.
A professional cleaning by a hygienist and a regular oral care routine at home is usually all people need to treat gingivitis and keep it from recurring. It’s also a good idea to see your dentist regularly for checkups and to make sure the disease hasn’t come back.
Without treatment, gum and bone disease can progress from gingivitis to periodontitis. The American Dental Association reports that more than 47 percent of adults over the age of 30 in US have the more advanced form of gum and bone disease.
In this stage, the gums begin to pull away from the teeth as a result of plaque buildup under the gumline. As the gums pull away from the teeth, pockets form. Bacteria, plaque, and other debris can collect in the pockets. As the pockets become deeper, the gums and bone tissue can be damaged and destroyed, leading to bone loss, which is irreversible (as bone does not regerate) and can lead to tooth loss.
Complications of Gum and Bone Disease
Left untreated, gum and bone disease can cause complications in the mouth and might spread to other areas of the body or contribute to chronic medical conditions.
One of the most visible complications of untreated gum and bone disease is tooth loss. A study in the Journal of Periodontology followed 30 patients at a private dental practice who decided not to pursue treatment of gum and bone disease. After about two years without treatment, about 3 percent of the patients’ teeth had been lost (an average of 0.3 teeth per patient per year). The people with untreated gum and bone disease also had greater probing depths (deeper pockets) after two years.
Untreated gum and bone disease might also have an effect on a person’s overall health. For example, there is most likely a connection between gum and bone disease and diabetes. When people have untreated gum and bone disease, it can be more difficult to manage blood sugar levels, making it harder to control diabetes. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases notes that having diabetes might also make gum and bone disease worse.
In some cases, untreated gum and bone disease might also contribute to heart disease and strokes. The Harvard Health Letter reports that people with gum and bone disease have up to three times the risk of having a heart attack or stroke as people without gum and bone disease.
One reason for the increased risk of heart disease with gum and bone disease might be the inflammation that’s connected to gum and bone disease. Ongoing inflammation in the body might contribute to atherosclerosis, or a buildup of plaque in the arteries.
While the connection between gum and bone disease and heart disease isn’t definite (there are plenty of people with healthy gums who have heart disease and people with gum and bone disease who don’t have heart disease), it can be enough of a reason to consider talking to a dental professional about treatment options for gum and bone disease.
What You Can Do about Gum and Bone Disease
If you are concerned about the risks of untreated gum and bone disease, one of best things you can do is schedule an appointment with a dental professional. The dentists and hygienists at Klement Family Dental in St. Petersburg, FL, can work with you to diagnose gum and bone disease and develop an appropriate treatment plan.
In some cases, the best treatment might be cleaning the teeth and working on maintaining an oral care routine at home. In more advanced cases, treatment might involve reducing the size of the pockets in the gums, restoring lost gum tissue, or replacing damaged or loose teeth with dental implants.
With timely dental care and treatment, you can usually avoid the complications of gum and bone disease. To learn more about what you can, contact Klement Family Dental to schedule an appointment today.