Gum disease

Gum disease is another largely preventable condition which causes missing teeth. It affects most people at some stage in their lives and can cause tooth loss if left untreated.

There are two types of gum disease:

  • Gingivitis
  • Periodontitis

Gingivitis

This is the less serious form of gum disease which is characterised by red, swollen, inflamed gums which bleed when brushed.

Periodontitis

This is the serious version in which the infection within the gums then spreads to the ligament and bones which hold the teeth in position.

The gums become swollen and inflamed and start to recede away from the teeth. Small abscesses form on the gums or underneath the teeth.

These abscesses cause pus to be released which results in bad breath and a feeling of being unwell. The teeth become loose due to this infection and eventually fall out.

Causes of gum disease

Both types of gum disease occur for the same reasons for tooth decay. Bacteria present in your mouth combined with acid from broken down food and saliva come together to form a sticky substance called ‘plaque’.

If this plaque is not removed, e.g. using a toothbrush, it builds up on the teeth to form a hard substance called ‘tartar’.

Both of these can be easily removed using a toothbrush and dental floss.

But if they are not they then spread to the surrounding gums and cause an infection.

Gum disease and tooth loss

The milder form of gum disease – gingivitis – does not result in tooth loss but this is likely to occur if it is allowed to worsen. If this condition is not treated the build up of plaque continues to the extent that it starts to attack the bone in the jaw known as the ‘alveolar bone’ which holds the sockets for your teeth.

This is also combined with damage to the ‘periodontal ligament’ – the ligament which helps to connect a tooth to its socket.

If both of these are damaged then the tooth starts to loosen in the socket and finally, falls out.

Other teeth become unstable as a result which may lead to further loss. This is further exacerbated by receding gums which reveal more of the teeth than necessary which leaves them increasingly vulnerable.

This also leads to tooth loss.

A good dental hygiene routine will help to prevent this as well as tooth decay.