What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is swelling, soreness or infection of the gums. Most adults suffer from some sort of gum disease. It develops very slowly, so if it is treated fast and effectively, it can be managed. It’s much less common in children.
There are two main forms of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. It is when the gums around the teeth become red and swollen. The gums can bleed during brushing.
Gingivitis that is left untreated for some time can become periodontal disease. If periodontitis is not treated, the bone in your jaw may be damaged and small spaces can open up between the gum and teeth. Your teeth can become loose and eventually fall out. Periodontitis can lead to painful collections of pus (gum abscesses), receding gums, loose teeth and tooth loss.
How do I get gum disease?
Gum disease is caused by a build-up of plaque – the film of bacteria that develops on the surface of teeth. Many of the bacteria in plaque are harmless, but some have been shown to be the major cause of gum disease. If you do not remove plaque from your teeth by brushing them well, it builds up and irritates your gums. This can lead to redness, bleeding, swelling and soreness.
Who is more prone to gum disease?
People who smoke are more likely to produce bacterial plaque, which leads to gum disease. Smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, so the infected gums don't heal. People who smoke (including vaping and e-cigarettes) have more plaque and gum disease which gets worse more quickly than in non-smokers. Another good reason to try and quit smoking!
Gum disease has been linked with general health conditions such as diabetes, strokes, cardiovascular disease, poor pregnancy outcomes and dementia. Your dentist may request more regular check-ups if you suffer from any of these conditions.
Gum disease cannot be cured, but it can be slowed and managed well by maintaining good oral hygiene and seeing your dentist regularly for check-ups.
How do I know I have gum disease?
You should make an appointment with your dentist if your gums are painful, swollen or bleed when you brush them. It’s important to act quickly, as gum disease can be managed if treated early. Gum disease does not cause pain, making it harder to notice the damage it is doing. If left untreated for a long time, gum disease is more difficult to treat.
The first sign of gum disease is blood on your toothbrush or when you spit after brushing. Your gums may also bleed when you are eating and your breath may become unpleasant.
How is gum disease treated?
Mild cases of gum disease can usually be treated by maintaining good oral hygiene. This includes brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing regularly. You should visit your dentist for regular check-ups. Your dentist or dental hygienist will give your teeth a thorough clean and remove any hardened plaque (tartar). They’ll also show you how to clean your teeth effectively, to help prevent plaque building up in the future.
Once your teeth are clean, your dental team may need to treat the roots of the teeth to make sure that the last pockets of bacteria are removed. This is called root planing. You will probably be given a local anaesthetic and the area may feel sensitive for up to 48 hours after the treatment.
If you have severe gum disease, you may need to have further medical and dental treatment. In some cases, you may need surgery. This will usually be carried out by a specialist in gum problems (periodontist).
How do I avoid gum disease?
The best way to avoid gum disease is to maintain good oral hygiene. This means a routine of brushing effectively at least twice a day and interdental cleaning (flossing or using interdental brushes) at least once a day. Our range of toothbrushes and flossing tools and interdental brushes will help you every step of the way. Disclosing tablets can also help by highlighting areas of your teeth you are regularly missing during brushing.
"Don't forget to brush the gum line. Bacteria build up here and in between the teeth which can lead to gum disease."
Anjali Mehta, Periodontist
Regular visits to your dentist will ensure gum disease is picked up in its earliest stages. A dental hygienist will remove any plaque build-up to help prevent gum disease forming.
For the best care for your teeth and gums, check out our full range of oral health care products.