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How Gum Disease Can Progress to the Need for Oral Surgery

Apr 10, 2024
You brush your teeth but neglect to floss. And if you don’t floss regularly, food particles and plaque may irritate your gums to the point where they develop gingivitis. That can lead to full-on periodontitis that requires oral surgery to correct.

Thanks to today’s sedation dentistry, oral surgery is a fairly pain-free, hassle-free procedure. But that doesn’t mean you should welcome it into your life. You can avoid oral surgery by taking good care of your teeth and taking care of your gums, too.

When it comes to your oral health, you may not give your gums much thought. You’re focused on keeping your teeth clean and white. But gums are the tissues that hold your teeth in place so that you can keep them healthy and keep them for life.

Our dentist at AB Dental and Oral Surgery clinic in San Antonio, Texas, Dr. Anthony Osei, would prefer that you don’t need to have surgery on your gums. However, if you neglect your gums, you may develop a condition that requires surgery to correct.

How can you avoid oral surgery? Pay attention to your gums, starting today. Here’s why.

Healthy gums protect your teeth

Healthy gums fit snugly around your teeth. They’re filled with small blood vessels and nerves.

Your gums are part of the periodontium, which are tissues that support and maintain healthy teeth and help them stay anchored in your mouth. 

The periodontium consists of:

  • Gums (gingiva)
  • Periodontal ligament (connects tooth to gums and bone)
  • Alveolar bone (jawbone)
  • Cementum (adheres tooth to periodontal ligament)

Your gums act as shock absorbers to keep stress away from teeth. They also help protect your teeth from bacteria and other pathogens.

Food and plaque threaten gums

When you eat food, a sticky film called plaque develops on your teeth. Plaque provides a welcome hangout for bacteria, which feast on any food particles that remain on or around our teeth.

Brushing your teeth usually brushes away the plaque — and the bacteria it contains. However, brushing isn’t sufficient to remove the plaque and food particles that have settled beneath the gumline. 

The only way to remove plaque from beneath the gumline is to floss or use a water pick. Not only does flossing or water picking clean away bacteria and plaque, it prevents the development of tartar.

Tartar erodes teeth and gums

Tartar is a brown crust that develops on your teeth if you don’t brush properly or get a professional dental cleaning twice a year. You can’t remove tartar yourself. Your dentist uses tools to scrape it off.

Tartar is hardened plaque and is composed of dead bacteria that have mineralized. When tartar collects under the gumline, it creates pockets that allow even more bacteria to collect around teeth and tooth roots.

The first symptom that you have tartar under the gumline is gums that are swollen, red, or tender. You may notice that your gums bleed when you brush your teeth or floss. That’s not a good sign. You may also have bad breath from the decaying food in the gum pockets

Gum pockets can get infected

Once the gum pockets become infected, your teeth, jawbone, and even your organs are all at risk. As the gums degrade from infection, your tooth may begin to loosen or even fall out.

Once you pass from gingivitis to periodontitis (infection in the gums), you may need oral surgery to save your teeth and jawbone. Almost half of adults in the United States over age 30 have some form of periodontal disease. 

If your infection is mild, a simple scaling and planing procedure may be enough to preserve your teeth. Scaling removes tartar and bacteria from the teeth, including parts of your tooth root. Planing smooths the root so that plaque can’t adhere to it so easily. Planing also helps the gums reattach to your teeth.

You may need surgery for gum disease

Moderate to severe cases of periodontitis could require oral surgery to save threatened teeth and repair damaged bone. These procedures may include:

  • Flap surgery to clean and repair gum pockets
  • Soft tissue grafts to cover areas of gum loss
  • Bone grafts to build up jawbone tissue to keep teeth in place
  • Guided tissue regeneration to help bone regrow
  • Tissue-stimulating proteins applied to tooth roots

It’s best to catch gum disease in its earliest stages so you can stay surgery-free and keep your teeth. Call us at 210-682-2700 for gingivitis or periodontitis treatment, or schedule an appointment with our online form.