What is gum disease?
Gum disease is the swelling, soreness and infection of the gum and tissues supporting your teeth. The first stage is called gingivitis – it is when the gums around your teeth become red and swollen. The swollen gums may bleed when you brush your teeth.
The second, more advanced stage, is called periodontal disease. The bone anchoring your teeth in your jaw is lost and your teeth become loose. If untreated, your teeth will eventually fall out. More teeth are lost through gum disease than through tooth decay.
What causes it?
All gum disease is caused by plaque. Plaque is nothing more than a thin film of bacteria which builds up on your teeth every day. Its the yellow stuff on your teeth that you can remove by brushing and flossing every day.
Smoking makes gum disease worse. The smoke itself leads to more bacterial plaque and the oxygen deprivation means that infected gums fail to heal.
What are the symptoms?
Gum disease is generally not painful so you may not notice the damage it is causing. The most common sign is bleeding whilst you are cleaning your teeth. Your breath may be unpleasant and your gums may also feel sore. In advanced cases, pus may ooze from around the teeth.
How is it treated?
Your dentist will start with a thorough check up of your teeth and gums. Your dentist will measure the cuff of the gum around each tooth to detect whether periodontal disease has started. X-rays may be needed to see the amount of bone that has been lost.
For minor cases, a number of sessions with the dentist or hygienist may be needed to thoroughly clean all surfaces of your teeth. They may prescribe a medicated mouthwash, and will also demonstrate to you proper oral healthcare.
More severe cases require further cleaning of the roots of your tooth to make sure that the bacteria pockets are removed. This is known as root planing and will require you to be numbed up. This is done in the practice, but some cases may be referred to a specialist known as a periodontologist.