Gum disease refers to any infection, swelling or soreness in the tissue supporting the teeth. The two main types of the dental health problem are periodontal disease and gingivitis.
Inflammation of the gums is known as gingivitis and occurs when areas around the teeth become swollen and red. Its presence will often lead to bleeding gums during tooth brushing.
If gingivitis is left untreated for a long period of time it can develop into periodontal disease. This comes in various forms, but all affect the tissue that supports the teeth. As the condition worsens it destroys the bone securing the teeth to the jaw. If the problem is not treated it can cause the loss of teeth.
How common is gum disease?
Most adults will suffer from the condition at some stage as it is the primary factor leading to adult tooth loss. In the majority of cases, it progresses slowly and can be slowed down by means of good dental health and food intake.
How does it start?
The cause is plaque, a layer of bacteria which develops on the surfaces of gums and teeth. Most of these bacteria are harmless, but others may trigger the symptoms of gum disease. In order to both treat and prevent gum disease it is vital to remove plaque from your teeth and gums by flossing and brushing daily.
What will happen if it is not treated?
The dental disease is largely pain-free and many people will not notice the damage that is being caused. In some cases, the bacteria will be more active and lead to soreness in the gums. If this happens there is a risk of gum abscesses where pus oozes from the area around the teeth. After a few years the bone supporting the teeth may be lost.
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
- Blood left on a toothbrush after you have cleaned your teeth
- Bleeding after eating
- An unpleasant taste in the mouth
- Bad breath
- Painful gums
What should I do if I have any of these symptoms?
The first thing you should do is make a dental appointment for your gums and teeth to be checked by a professional dentist. They will be able to take measurements of the gum area (known as the ‘cuff’) around the tooth to ascertain if there are any symptoms of periodontal disease. You may also require an X-ray to find how much bone has been lost. Treatment can then be discussed following diagnosis.
What does treatment involve?
The dentist will clean your teeth thoroughly and also show you the best way to get rid of plaque. This includes cleaning every tooth surface effectively and thoroughly, as well as general tips about maintaining oral health. Several appointments may be required.
Is there any additional treatment?
After the teeth have been cleaned the dentist may opt to remove remaining bacteria by carrying out further cleaning of the roots. This area will need to be numbed prior to treatment and there may be some discomfort for the next 48 hours.
Can periodontal disease return?
There is no cure for periodontal disease, but further loss of bone can be slowed and even stopped by maintaining a good dental care routine. The key for successfully managing gum disease is to get rid of plaque from your mouth on a daily basis and attend regular appointments with your hygienist and dentist.