The earliest sign of gum disease known as gingivitis; is bleeding of the gums. They may also look red or swollen. Gingivitis can often be cured simply with good mouth hygiene – brushing twice a day for at least 2 minutes in the morning and evening and using floss or interdental brushes for the spaces between teeth.
As the disease progresses the tissues holding teeth in place start to break down and pockets in the gum form around the teeth which allow even more plaque (also known as biofilm) to gather. This stage is called chronic periodontitis. It is usually painless and can become quite severe if not treated resulting in teeth becoming loose and eventually to fall out.
Symptoms to watch out for are:
- Gums that have come away from teeth
- Pus between the teeth and gums
- Persistent bad breath or a bad taste
- Permanent teeth that are loose or are changing position
Chronic Periodontitis can only be controlled if you keep your teeth and gums thoroughly clean. Your dentist or hygienist can show you how to do this properly. Scaling and polishing by hygienist can remove hard tartar that cannot be removed with your toothbrush.
Some people are naturally more prone to gum disease. It is important to visit the dentist regularly, so this can be identified and you can get advice on managing it. There are other factors that can increase your risk of periodontal disease:
- Smoking makes gum disease considerably worse
- Diabetes and some other diseases reduce people’s resistance to gum disease
- Certain drugs and medicines can affect your gums
- Crooked teeth are more difficult to keep clean, so the gums supporting such teeth might be more prone to gum disease
- Existing gum disease can be worsened by hormonal changes, due to pregnancy
- Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables helps resist gum disease
Treatment of Gum Disease
The early stages of gum disease are easily treated. An appointment with our hygienist for scaling will gently remove biofilm and tartar deposits from the tooth surface. This may be carried out under local anesthetic for those with more sensitive teeth. Depending on the severity of gum disease more than one visit may be required, after which a maintenance program is recommended.
You may require root planing which is an additional therapy provided by our hygienist, in conjunction with your toothbrushing regime at home, to halt the progression of gum disease. It involves ‘deep’ scaling, to clean parts of teeth below the gumline, which cannot be reached with a toothbrush.
After a tooth has been root planed, the pocket should shrink, making the gum sit closer to the tooth. Root planing and biofilm removal with airflow will need to be repeated regularly. Good oral hygiene is a key factor in how well the gums respond to treatment.