Q What is gum disease?
A Gum disease is an oral disease which is characterised by swelling, soreness and bleeding gums. There are two forms of gum disease, which includes gingivitis and periodontitis (periodontal disease).
Q What is gingivitis?
A Gingivitis occurs when the gingival (the gums) become inflamed. They often also become red and may bleed, particularly after flossing or brushing.
Q What is periodontitis?
A Periodontitis is an advanced form of gum disease which can develop if gingivitis is left untreated and is the main reason for adult tooth loss within the UK. Periodontal disease affects the structures that support the teeth, including the alveolar bone.
Q Is it likely that I will develop gum disease?
A Most suffer from gingivitis at some point in their lives, but it is easily treatable. If gingivitis is left untreated, it can develop into periodontal disease and this is much more difficult to treat.
Q What causes gum disease?
A Gum disease results from bacteria which combines with food particles inside the mouth to form a sticky substance known as plaque. This substance clings to the surfaces of the teeth and the gum line. If plaque is not removed by brushing or flossing, the gums become inflamed and infected.
Q What happens if gum disease is left untreated?
A Gum disease progresses slowly, which means that many do not notice the symptoms until an advanced stage. If gum disease is left untreated it can spread from the gums to the alveolar bone, weakening the bone and causing pockets to appear between the gums and the bone. These pockets are prone to collecting bacteria causing painful abscesses to develop. As the bone becomes weakened looseness of teeth and eventual tooth loss may occur.
Q What are the symptoms?
A The first sign is usually bleeding gums when brushing or flossing. Additional symptoms include:
- Unpleasant breath
- Soreness of the gums.
Make sure to visit your dentist if you notice any of these symptoms.
Q What should I do?
A Visit your local dentist as soon as possible as they will examine your mouth and may take X-rays to note any damage. They may then advise you to visit a dental hygienist or refer you to a periodontist (a specialist in the treatment of gum disease) in more severe cases.
Q Which treatments are available?
A A thorough cleaning is the first form of treatment, which includes the removal of plaque and tartar, cleaning along the gum line and polishing the teeth. Treatment may involve several sessions with a dentist or dental hygienist and in complex cases, a patient may be referred to a periodontist.
Additional cleaning may be needed to remove infected tissue from the root canals and pockets between the gums and the bone tissue. Your dentist will also discuss with you how to prevent further bouts of gum disease.
Q Can I get periodontal disease more than once?
A Unfortunately, it is not possible to cure periodontal disease, but your dentist will show you how to clean your teeth properly and arrange regular check-ups to manage the condition. Regular trips to the hygienist are also advisable.
Q Is there anything that makes gum disease worse?
A Yes, smoking increases the chances of gum disease as it affects circulation to the gums, which slows down the natural healing process. Diabetes can also increase the risk of gum disease and some medications may also have an effect. Speak to your dentist if you are taking any medication, have been diagnosed with diabetes or have any other underlying health conditions.
Q Will I be referred to a specialist?
A In complex cases, patients may be referred to a specialist known as a periodontist, who treat patients affected by gum disease.