What is gum disease (gingivitis)?
Gingivitis means ‘inflammation of the gums’. This is when the gums around the teeth become very red and swollen. Often the swollen gums bleed when they are brushed during cleaning.
What is periodontal disease?
Long-standing gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease. There are a number of types of periodontal disease and they all affect the tissues supporting the teeth. As the disease gets worse the bone anchoring the teeth in the jaw is lost, making the teeth loose. If this is not treated, the teeth may eventually fall out.
Am I likely to suffer from gum disease?
Probably. Most people suffer from some form of gum disease, and it is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. However, the disease develops very slowly in most people, and it can be slowed down to a rate that should allow you to keep most of your teeth for life.
What is the cause of gum disease?
All gum disease is caused by plaque. Plaque is a film of bacteria which forms on the surface of the teeth every day. Many of the bacteria in plaque are completely harmless, but there are some that have been shown to be the main cause of gum disease. To prevent and treat gum disease, you need to make sure you remove all the plaque from your teeth every day. This is done by brushing and cleaning in between the teeth with ‘interdental’ brushes or floss.
How will smoking affect my gums and teeth?
Smoking can also make gum disease worse. People who smoke are more likely to produce bacterial plaque, which leads to gum disease. The gums are affected because smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, so the infected gums don’t heal. Smoking causes people to have more plaque and the gum disease to get worse more quickly than in non-smokers. Gum disease is still a major cause of tooth loss in adults.
How do I know if I have gum disease?
The first sign is blood on your toothbrush or in the rinsing water when you clean your teeth. Your gums may also bleed when you are eating, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Your breath may also become unpleasant.
What do I do if I think I have gum disease?
The first thing to do is visit your dental team for a thorough check-up of your teeth and gums. They will measure the ‘cuff’ of gum around each tooth to see if there is any sign that periodontal disease has started. X-Rays may also be needed to see the amount of bone that has been lost. This assessment is very important, so the correct treatment can be prescribed for you.
What treatments are needed?
Your dental team will remove all plaque and tartar from your teeth. You will also be shown how to remove plaque successfully yourself, cleaning all the surfaces of your teeth thoroughly and effectively. This may take a number of sessions with the dental team. A good oral care routine at home with brushing and interdental cleaning is the most important thing you can do to help prevent gum disease getting worse.
I have heard gum disease is linked with other health conditions – is this true?
In recent years gum disease has been linked with general health conditions such as diabetes, strokes, cardiovascular disease, poor pregnancy outcomes and even dementia. More research is needed to understand how these links work but there is more and more evidence that having a healthy mouth and gums can help improve your general health and reduce the costs of medical treatment.