What is Dental Bone Loss
Dental bone loss is an issue that is quite common, particularly in populations of advancing age. While many may recognize the signs and symptoms of bone loss – loose or missing teeth, a slightly hollowed or sunken-in appearance around the jaw – most don’t realize just how easy it is for the process of bone loss to begin, or how invisible it is in the early stages. The fact is, bone health is tied closely to bone health; as the following article will demonstrate, problems with the soft tissues of the gums is also where dental bone loss typically begins.
The Primary Culprit: Gum Disease
Although there are other causes that can lead to dental bone loss, one of the most common contributors to a decline in healthy bone mass is gum disease. An infection of the soft tissues of the gums that is created by a build-up of tartar and plaque on one’s teeth, gum disease is a progressive three-stage disease that can have minor or no symptoms at the outset, and result in bone and tooth loss as it progresses (along with other complications).
The first stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. This is the point at which bacteria from plaque on one’s teeth begins to infect the gums. Oftentimes, this can result in sore, inflamed gums that may even bleed during regular brushing and flossing. In some cases, there are no symptoms. During this initial stage, gum disease can still be reversed – all it usually takes is a thorough cleaning by your regular dental hygienist at the dentist’s office. For this reason, it is very important to make an appointment to have any gum symptoms checked out, and to keep up with biannual appointments to get your teeth cleaned. These cleanings don’t just keep your teeth looking good, they also actively preserve your gum health!
In the progressing stages, called periodontitis and advanced periodontitis, gum disease cannot be reversed, but only managed. At these stages, the infection of the gums becomes more serious and begins to erode the hard tissues of the jawbone that surround one’s teeth. When this happens, teeth can begin to become loose, move around, and even fall out. While this tooth loss is separate from the underlying bone loss that has already occurred, they are related; tooth loss is often a result of bone loss in the jaw.
Preventing Dental Bone Loss
As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; when it comes to dental bone loss, this certainly rings true. Happily, preventing bone loss can be as easy as maintaining a good oral hygiene practice (brushing twice a day and flossing at least once), not smoking (this is a massive contributor to the beginning and progression of gum disease), drinking only in moderation, maintaining a healthy diet, and generally taking care of your teeth.
For more information about how you can take better care of your gums, ask your dental hygienist at your next dental visit – they will likely be able to give you some helpful tips and tricks that you can start implementing right away.