Periodontal (gum) diseases

What are they?

The simplest form of gum disease, gingivitis, is often a reaction to a build up of plaque on the junction of the gum and the teeth. Plaque is a soft, sticky film of bacteria, which grow on the warm, moist surface of the mouth. Plaque builds up in difficult to clean areas, especially below the contact areas between teeth. It is important to clean these areas daily with interdental brushes or dental floss.

The earliest sign of disease is bleeding of the gums. They may also look red or swollen. Gingivitis can often be cured simply with good mouth hygiene- brushing twice a day, together with interdental cleaning, as advised by a dental healthcare professional, and the use of clinically proven mouthwash. If your gums become infected or sore and you notice an unpleasant metallic taste, this is acute gingivitis and you should seek urgent treatment.

As gum disease progresses the tissues holding teeth in place start to break down and pockets (gaps) develop between gum and teeth. This allows even more plaque to gather. This stage is called chronic periodontitis. It is usually painless and can become quite severe if not treated resulting in teeth becoming loose, appearing to move position or eventually to fall out.

Symptoms to watch out for are:

  • bleeding gums
  • gums that have come away from teeth
  • pus between the teeth and gums
  • persistent bad breath or a bad taste
  • Permanent teeth that are loose or are changing position

Scaling and polishing by a dentist or hygienist can remove tartar and stains. This will help you to remove the plaque efficiently.

In more severe cases of gum disease, deep cleaning below the gumline by a dentist or hygienist may be neccesary. Occasionally surgery is required in which the gum is reshaped under local anaesthetic tro allow affected areas to be treated or cleaned.

If gum disease has progressed too far, the tooth or teeth involved may have to be removed.

Who gets gum disease?

Gum disease can start when you are a child, but chronic periodontitis is normally only a problem in adults.

Some people are more likely to have periodontal disease than others:

  • smoking makes gum disease considerably worse. Quitting smoking is important for your general and mouth health
  • diabetes and some other diseases reduce people’s resistance to gum disease. People who have these conditions need to be especially careful about their mouth hygiene
  • certain drugs and medicines can affect your gums: ask your dentist about these
  • crooked teeth are more difficult to keep clean, so the gums supporting such teeth might be more prone to gum disease
  • existing gum disease can be worsened by hormonal changes, due to pregnancy or oral contraceptives (‘the pill’). Here again, good hygiene is important
  • eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables helps resist gum disease
  • untreated gum disease can adversely affect your general health and wellbeing

Speak to your local Clear Dental Practice to learn more.