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Frequently Asked Questions About Gum Disease and Dental Implants

Adult With Clean White Teeth
Gum disease is common in many older Americans, but it is not a natural part of aging. When you fail to take good care of your teeth by not brushing, flossing, seeing your dentist regularly, eating less sugar, and avoiding acidic foods, your risk of gum disease increases. If you have uncontrolled gum disease, dental implants are not a great choice. Learn why.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gum disease is caused by bacteria irritating the gums as the bacteria feeds off the plaque and tartar in your mouth. The less often you clean your teeth, the more bacteria thrive. Properly cleaning your teeth at home and with regular dental cleanings removes the bacteria and their food, which reduces the risk for gum disease.
If you fail to keep your mouth clean, the gums become more irritated, and they may become infected, red, swollen, bloody and tender. Besides poor oral hygiene, you may be at higher risk for gum disease if you:
  • Have diabetes
  • Are a smoker
  • Abuse alcohol
  • Take certain medications that reduce saliva
If you have these conditions, you need to be even more vigilant with your dental care.
How Does Gum Disease Affect the Gums?
When gum disease is mild, it is called gingivitis. Gingivitis usually only affects the gums. In some cases, you may experience no symptoms, but tender, bloody gums (especially when flossing and brushing) are common signs of gingivitis.
As the disease advances, however, the pain may become more severe, and your gums may start to recede. This exposes the vulnerable tooth root and creates pockets that trap plaque and bacteria, making it harder to keep your mouth clean. This deterioration increases the risk of decay and allows your teeth to loosen, increasing the risk of tooth loss.
How Does Gum Disease Affect the Jawbone?
If you fail to seek treatment for gingivitis, it may advance to periodontitis. At this stage, it attacks the jawbone. The jawbone begins to shrink and weaken, allowing teeth to become even more loose, further increasing the risk of tooth loss.
Worse, if you did try to put dental implants in a weak jaw, they would likely fail. Before implants can be placed, a bone graft may be necessary, which further increases the price and length of treatment. The more teeth you have missing and the weaker your jawbone, the bigger the graft you'll need.
Can Gum Disease Be Cured?
If you have gingivitis, treatment is simple: start following good oral hygiene habits, cut back on sugar, and start getting professional dental cleanings. Your dentist may recommend a deep clean, which involves cleaning and smoothing the tooth below the gum line, and antibiotics may be used.
However, if your disease has advanced to periodontitis, the condition is no longer reversible. You can and should seek treatment to slow or stop the symptoms, but to fix your gum recession and bone loss, surgical solutions such as a gum graft may be necessary.
Can Implants Be Affected by Gum Disease?
Once you've gotten your gum disease under control and had the implant(s) placed, your work isn't done. You'll need to continue taking great care of your teeth at home and by visiting the dentist regularly. Dental implants aren't living tissue, so they can't decay like teeth, but the gums can still become infected. This is known as peri-implant disease, and like gum disease, it may start slow, with mild irritation, but it can quickly advance, exposing the implant and increasing the risk of failure.
If you are sick of missing teeth, but you have uncontrolled gum disease, don't worry. Dental implants may still be a great choice. However, first you must get your gum disease under control. If you need help with your dental health, check out why you should consider Premier Dentures and Implants for your next dental appointment.