Tooth decay is an infectious disease that causes the teeth to slowly loosen by destroying their attachment to the jaw.
Tooth decay, also called periodontitis, is mainly due to the fact that there are bacteria around the teeth. If you do not clean your teeth properly for a long time, your gums may become inflamed. That is why it is important to make regular dental visits and clean your teeth carefully.
The importance of bacteria for tooth loss
If the bacteria are not brushed away from the tooth surface at the edge of the gums, a coating eventually becomes known as biofilm. If the biofilm is not removed, inflammation of the gums, called gingivitis, occurs. The inflammation can heal if the bacterial coatings, the biofilm, are removed.
If the bacterial coatings are not removed, the gum pocket between the tooth and the gums can be deepened, there is a risk of tooth loss. The bacteria that accumulate in the deep pocket will not be accessed with the toothbrush. They must be removed using special instruments.
If the inflammation spreads
If the inflammation is not detected and treated early, there is a risk that it will spread and attack the root and jaw bone. That’s when the condition is called tooth decay. The pocket of the gums becomes deeper and the bacteria penetrate further down, which causes more and more of the tooth’s attachment to be destroyed. This takes a long time, usually between ten and twenty years, but can eventually cause the entire bracket of the tooth to be destroyed so that the tooth becomes loose and falls out or needs to be removed.
Almost every other adult gets tooth loss
Tooth decay is a people’s disease that occurs in some form in almost half of the adult population. Sometimes the disease attacks only a few teeth, and sometimes almost all. In rare cases, the course of the disease can be quite rapid.
The severe form of tooth loss, where large parts of the tooth’s attachment is destroyed, is very uncommon at younger ages but occurs in about one in seven of the adult population. Although there may be a hereditary influence to develop tooth decay, the main reason is that the teeth are not cleaned properly for a long time.
Smoking and stress increase the risk
If you smoke, the risk of getting tooth loss is much higher than if you do not. Smoking causes both the disease to develop faster and to cure it. This is probably because smoking impairs the immune system.
Stress and diseases that affect the immune system also increase the risk of getting tooth loss. Diabetes also increases the risk of tooth loss. Therefore, you also need regular contact with dental care if you have diabetes.
Although tooth loss is an infectious disease, it cannot be cured with antibiotics.
The treatment is to remove the bacterial coatings that are present, remove the deepened gum pockets and prevent a new infection.
In a regular examination, the dentist or dental hygienist measures the pockets around the teeth to see how deep they are, and tests if they begin to bleed easily. A healthy gum pocket is usually no deeper than three to four millimeters and should not bleed. With the help of x-rays, the dentist can also see how the tooth’s attachment to the jawbone around the tooth looks.
The earlier the disease is detected, the easier the treatment will be. You can get treatment for tooth loss even when the disease has been going on for a long time. Then the treatment can be extensive and costly and require specialist care.
The part of the toothbrush that has already been destroyed by the disease can usually not be restored, but the treatment can prevent more of the toothbrush from being destroyed.
Bacteria are removed with special instruments
Bacteria that are down in the gums pockets you can’t remove yourself. It must be done by a dentist or dental hygienist who uses special instruments to remove them from the surface of the tooth root and into the gum pocket. The treatment takes time, and often you have to go several times to clean all teeth.
If the treatment goes well, inflammation in the gums will disappear and the deeper gums will heal. Since parts of the tooth’s attachment are destroyed by the disease, the roots closest to the crown of the tooth are often exposed. The teeth can then look longer than before and there may be sores in the beginning.
Operation to get rid of bacteria
If you have a severe form of dental floss, you may need a referral to a periodontologist, that is, a specialist in dental floss. They may sometimes be necessary to perform an operation to remove bacteria and tartar in the deepened gum pockets. The surgery is done under local anesthesia and you do not usually need to be sick off afterwards.
There are also surgical treatments that in some cases make it possible to recover part of the toothbrush lost.
Dental bridge or denture
Sometimes the tooth loss has gone so far that several teeth cannot be saved but must be removed. This can affect the chewing function, speech and appearance. Then it may be necessary to insert some type of dental bridge or denture to replace the lost teeth. A bridge can also help stabilize moving teeth affected by the disease.
After treatment, it is important to go aftercare two to four times a year. It reduces the risk of new infections. Then you usually go to a dental hygienist who checks that you have the right technology to keep your teeth clean. The dental hygienist removes bacteria and tartar if needed.
How can I prevent tooth loss?
Regular dental visits and thorough cleaning are the best ways to prevent tooth loss. Since tooth decay mainly occurs in the space between the teeth, in addition to brushing the teeth, one should also use a space brush, floss, or toothpick .
Tooth decay often has such a slow and painless course of disease that you do not discover the disease yourself until one or more teeth begin to resolve. Therefore, it is important to be examined regularly by a dentist or dental hygienist.
Dental care professionals can advise and suggest appropriate aids. But the most important thing is that you clean your teeth properly every day.
If you smoke and have had tooth loss, besides dental cleaning, quitting smoking is the best thing you can do to stop tooth loss and for the treatment to have an effect.
When should I seek care?
You should contact a dentist or dental hygienist if the gums bleed frequently or a lot when brushing your teeth. If one or more teeth feel loose, you should also go to the dental office.
The inflammation around the teeth is difficult to notice because it does not hurt. The process is so slow that it can be difficult to discover for yourself that you have periodontitis.
An early sign of tooth decay is that it bleeds from the gums when brushing your teeth.
Those who smoke usually notice no bleeding because the blood vessels are contracted by smoking.