The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that approximately half (47.2%) of Americans have gum disease, while the American Academy of Periodontology cites gum disease as the leading cause of adult tooth loss nationwide. Poor dental hygiene and smoking are the primary controllable risk factors for this disease, but other factors like sex, age, family history, and certain systemic illnesses are associated with a higher risk. If caught in its earlier stages, gum disease can usually be successfully treated via improved at-home dental hygiene, antibiotic therapy, and non-surgical deep cleaning. Severe periodontitis, on the other hand, often requires surgical intervention to save the teeth and return your smile to its optimal level of oral health.
How Does Severe Gum Disease Cause Tooth Loss?
A progressive disorder, gum disease begins as gingivitis and follows a predictable series of steps. Plaque buildup at the gum line irritates and inflames the gums. At this stage, gingivitis (the mildest form of gum disease) is often treatable through better brushing and flossing and more frequent preventive care visits with a dentist or periodontist. Left untreated, the gums pull back from the tooth surface, giving the teeth a long or pointed look. Tiny spaces form between the gum and tooth. Colonies of plaque thrive in these “periodontal pockets,” exacerbating inflammation and infection. The body recognizes the threat and responds by destroying the connective and bone tissues holding the tooth in place. The tooth becomes loose in the socket and eventually falls out or must be extracted.
Common Surgical Treatments and How They Help
Extracting a tooth is always a last resort option. Before opting to extract, a periodontist might recommend one or more of the following complementary procedures:
- Gingivectomy. Reshapes and promotes healing of the gums (the gingiva) by removing infected tissue.
- Pocket Reduction Surgery. This dynamic treatment cleans deeply below the gum line to remove the threat of infection and restores lost bone tissue.
- Tissue Grafting. A periodontist will implant samples of the patient's own bone, gingival, and blood cells to encourage cell regeneration. This procedure builds up lost gingival tissue as well as lost bone mass.
About Dr. Marco Cueva
Marco Cueva, DDS, MS is a board-certified periodontist with extensive training and experience providing a full range of advanced periodontal care services, including gum disease treatments and gum surgery. New patients can schedule an appointment or consultation with