Gum (periodontal) disease

Gum disease, professionally known as periodontal disease, is estimated to affect approximately 20 percent of Australian adults and is the number one cause of tooth loss.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease is the infection of the tissues and bone that support your teeth. It is usually caused by the build-up of plaque, a sticky, colourless film that forms on the teeth and along the gumline. Plaque needs to be removed by daily brushing and flossing. If it isn’t removed, the plaque builds up and the bacteria within plaque can infect your gums, teeth and in more severe cases your gum tissue and bone.

The development of gum disease is split into two stages; gingivitis and periodontitis.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is gum disease in its earliest stage. Gingivitis affects the layers of gum, in particular where the gum meets the tooth. As plaque builds up, it produces toxins. These toxins then irritate the gum tissue, causing it to become inflamed. Once inflamed, people will often notice bleeding when brushing and flossing.

While it can be irritating and uncomfortable, the deeper area of the gums, teeth and bone are yet to be affected and as a result, the damage can be reversed. With improved oral hygiene and a visit to your dentist, the inflammation will reduce and after time, return to normal.

Periodontitis

If gingivitis is not treated correctly, it is likely to lead to periodontitis. This latter stage of gum disease is irreversible, as the bone and fibres that hold your teeth in place are damaged. Your gums may then form pockets below the gum line. These pockets trap food and plaque, which often results in the issue worsening. While periodontitis is irreversible, correct dental treatment and improved brushing and flossing, can help to prevent further damage. If left untreated, there is a greater likelihood of your teeth shifting or loosening as the fibres and bone are destroyed and there is no longer anything holding the tooth in place.

What causes gum disease?

While plaque is the main cause of gum disease, there are other factors that can contribute to the issue. These factors include:

  • Hormonal changes – Gums can often be more sensitive during puberty, pregnancy, menopause and menstruation, which makes it easier for gingivitis to develop.
  • Medication – Medications often reduce the flow of saliva, which helps to protect teeth and gums. As a result teeth are more exposed to bacteria and plaque.
  • Smoking – Smoking affects the rate at which gums and bone can heal and repair themselves. This slow rate of repair, along with poor oral hygiene can allow gum issues to worsen.
  • Poor oral hygiene habits – Irregular brushing and flossing can lead to an increase in plaque, making it easier for gingivitis to develop.
  • Family history – If your family has a history of gum disease, you are more likely to develop gingivitis. It is important to maintain a good oral hygiene routine and visit your dentist, regularly.

What are the symptoms of gum disease?

Many people are often unaware that they have gum disease as it can progress painlessly, with few obvious symptoms. However there are some symptoms to look out for including:

  • Gums that bleed during and after you brush your teeth
  • Red, tender or swollen gums
  • Receding gums
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
  • Formation of deep pockets in between teeth and gums
  • Loose teeth

How is gum disease treated?

There are a variety of treatments for gum disease. The treatment that your dentist recommends will be dependent on the stage of the disease; how well you have responded to previous treatments and; your overall health. Treatments include non-surgical options to control the bacteria growth and surgical options to restore the supportive tissue. During your consultation, your dentist will explain the options available to you and advise which treatment plan suits you best.

If you are suffering from any of the gum disease symptoms mentioned above, please call us on 9534 3481 to book an appointment. Early detection and intervention is vital.

Disclaimer: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.