Gum Disease

What is gum disease?

Gum disease or gingivitis occurs when the gums become inflamed, swollen and painful. If gingivitis isn't treated immediately it may develop into periodontal disease, a more severe type of gum disease. Other diseases which may impact the gums include: dental caries and oral cancer.

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is inflammation, swelling and redness of the gum tissue surrounding the teeth. Many often find that when eating or brushing their teeth, the gums bleed and feel sore.

What is periodontal disease?

It is an advanced type of gum disease that occurs if gingivitis is left untreated. The inflamed gum tissue becomes infected, which causes deterioration of the periodontal ligament that connects the bone to the gum tissue.

As the disease worsens (with the destruction of the periodontal ligament) the teeth become loose and the infection spreads to the root canals. If left untreated, substantial bone and tooth loss is likely to occur.

Am I likely to suffer from gum disease?

Most people at some point in their lives experience inflammation of gum tissue, in the form of gingivitis.

Some may experience swollen gums from time to time for varying reasons, such as medication or brushing teeth incorrectly. However, this may be temporary and correct itself with proper oral care and treatment. Where gingivitis is fast-progressing and not treated, periodontal disease may develop.

What is the main cause of gum disease?

Plaque is a major cause of gum disease and is caused by bacteria colonising on the surfaces of the teeth. This is why daily oral hygiene practice is vital to keep infection-causing bacteria at bay. Cleansing the mouth regularly and receiving professional teeth cleaning helps to remove plaque and harmful bacteria that cause gum disease. Avoiding dental care may lead to the development of gum disease and tooth decay.

What happens if gum disease is not treated?

The start of gum disease may go unnoticed and therefore treatment for gum disease may not be sought after. For this reason, having regular six-monthly dental check-ups is important for detecting signs of gum disease.

Potential signs of gum disease include:

  • Gum sores
  • Infection in the mouth
  • Pus around the teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Toothache

If left untreated, the gums and teeth will deteriorate making it harder to save damaged teeth. Early treatment prevents worsening of gum disease and tooth loss.

What are the signs of gum disease?

Blood on the toothbrush or when washing the mouth may be a sign of gum disease. The appearance of blood when eating, foul tastes within the mouth and persistent bad breath are also signs. Having these symptoms checked by a dentist may be the early intervention required to prevent spread of gum disease.

What if I have gum disease?

The correct course of action would be to make an appointment with your dentist. Specialist dental equipment, such as X-rays and imaging devices are used for determining if periodontal disease has set in. Screening for oral problems and careful diagnosis is the first stage of curing gum disease, which will help your dentist, decide upon the treatment suitable for you. It is optional to receive treatment, but without it the disease will progress impacting not only oral health but overall health.

What treatments are usually required?

The first treatment is usually oral cleaning to remove any infection. If infection is present within the root canals, root canal treatment may be necessary followed by dental restoration. The dentist advises on treatments depending on diagnosis. Frequent professional oral cleaning may help to prevent gum disease.

What else may be needed?

Root canal treatment may be necessary to remove all infection around the tooth and within the tooth pockets. This ensures all bacteria is eliminated and prevents any further spreading of the infection. Once complete, the tooth is sealed and a restoration such as a crown may be used to strengthen tooth structure. Treatment will depend on the severity of gum disease.

Once I have had periodontal disease, can I get it again?

Once an individual contracts periodontal disease, they will always have the disease as it cannot be cured only controlled. The dentist provides treatment to improve tooth and gum health, and educates the individual with periodontal disease on how to care for their condition at home. Dental hygiene is paramount - keeping teeth free of plaque and clean at home through following the dentist's recommendations, and attending professional cleaning with the dental hygienist. The dentist will set follow-up appointments to monitor oral health condition and disease status.

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