Causes of Gum Disease and Tooth Loss

What are the causes of tooth loss and gum disease?  Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, can occur as two different types, gingivitis, and periodontitis.  Both types trigger your body’s inflammatory response to fight bacteria living on our teeth and under the gums.  Both types of conditions can be multifactorial and influenced by your oral hygiene, medication, medical conditions, and Smoking status.  With advanced cases of gum disease, you may experience tooth loss.


Gingivitis is the most common type of gum disease, and it is important to recognise the signs before it becomes more advanced.  Some indications are that you may experience bleeding gums when brushing and flossing. The gums can become puffy, swollen, and red due to more blood supply being within the area as a response to the presence of plaque and bacteria. Thorough, twice daily brushing at the gumline and flossing once per day to remove the plaque can reverse this inflammation, returning your gums to a healthy state.  Gingivitis can occur in children and adults, but as mentioned, this is reversible with good oral care. Regular cleaning of your teeth by a dental professional is also required to access difficult to reach areas, and check your teeth for other issues.


The other type of periodontal disease is periodontitis.  It is a complex inflammatory disease meaning some of the damage done is caused by the bacteria and by the body attacking itself.  This type can occur progressively after having gingivitis initially and progress, or worsen, into periodontitis.  It can also occur without previously having gingivitis and usually only occurs in adults.  The changes that occur from this are irreversible.  Bone loss as well as gum loss, known as recession, occurs around the teeth.   The cementum and periodontal ligament that assist in holding the tooth in place and absorbing the pressures applied to teeth can be lost and absorbed into the body.  A pocket can form around the tooth as the ligaments detach from the tooth, this pocket can be measured by dental practitioners to determine the progression of gum disease.  Periodontitis is not a condition that can be cured; however, it can be managed through good oral hygiene, routine dental visits, and management of risk factors.

Factors that Can Influence Your Risk 

  • Oral hygiene: important factor to consider as a cause of gum disease and tooth loss.  Regular removal of plaque from our teeth is important as gum disease is influenced by our body reacting to the bacteria present on the teeth. 
  • Medications: some medications affect the body’s immune response or increase chance for plaque to gather, these include medications causing dry mouth.  Cancer therapies and steroids will also affect your risk of periodontal disease. causes of tooth loss and gum disease
  • Medical Conditions: pregnancy, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and heart disease are just some that can affect your immune system and increase your risk of periodontal disease.  How well these conditions are managed will also influence the risk.  Gum disease may also make some conditions like diabetes and HIV/Aids harder to manage. 
  • Smoking can have a large influence on your risk.  Smoking promotes more harmful bacteria to live in your mouth and affects the body’s ability to heal. 
  • Local factors seen visually within your mouth are crowded teeth, braces, fillings, dry mouth, groove development in teeth and trauma.  These all can influence the amount of bacterial accumulation on the teeth.  Another important factor is calculus, also known as hardened plaque or tartar which is hardened bacteria that cannot be brushed off, located above or below the gums. 
  • Other Unmodifiable Factors: including genetic predisposition to gum disease, gender, and age.  Women are believed to be at greater risk, as well as those in the older population. 

How Tooth Loss Can Occur?

In more advanced periodontitis you may experience tooth loss.  Over time loosening of teeth can occur, which may become painful and uncomfortable when eating or talking.  Periodontal abscesses may occur as an acute infection around the tooth and in the space under the gums.  With further loss of tissue and supportive structure teeth can fall out or need to be removed due to recurring pain and problems.  

Losing teeth can be concerning for both functional and aesthetic reasons, but tooth replacement options are available.  We want to help you stay confident with a great smile.  Options for you may include bridges or dentures that assist you with replacing teeth in the smile line or back teeth used for eating.  Talking to your dental practitioner about tooth replacement options to help maintain function and aesthetics is a good way to determine what would best suit you. 

Prevention of Gum Disease 

Working alongside your dental practitioner to determine the best at home and clinical care will help you with prevention and management of gum disease.  Through understanding the causes of tooth loss and gum disease, you and your dental practitioner will be able to take better control of your gum health.  In more progressed cases of gum disease, it may be best for you to be treated by specialist if recommended.  It is important to disclose your medical conditions and medications to your dental practitioner so risk factors can be determined and better managed.  Also working with your doctor or GP is important in the management and control of medical conditions such as diabetes.  Remember your mouth health can affect your overall health.


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