Gum disease, also known as gingivitis, is where the gums become swollen, sore or infected. Gum disease is very common. In the UK, it is estimated that half the adult population has some degree of gum disease and most people experience it at least once. It is much less common in children. If you have gum disease, your gums may bleed when you brush your teeth and you may have bad breath. In severe cases, a condition called periodontitis can develop. It affects the tissues that support teeth and hold them in place. Each year in the UK there are about six cases of severe periodontitis for every 100,000 people. If periodontitis is not treated, the bone in your jaw can decay and small spaces can open up between the gum and teeth. Your teeth can become loose and may eventually fall out.
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth. Plaque is a sticky substance that contains bacteria. Some bacteria in plaque is harmless, but some is very harmful for the health of your gums. If you do not remove plaque from your teeth by brushing them, it will build up and irritate your gums, leading to inflammation and soreness. Read more about the causes of gum disease.
Preventing and treating gum disease
Mild cases of gum disease can usually be treated or ‘reversed’ by maintaining a good level of oral hygiene. This includes brushing your teeth using an effective technique at least twice a day and flossing daily. If necessary, your dentist will be able to give your teeth a thorough clean and remove any hardened plaque (tartar). They will also be able to show you how to clean your teeth effectively to help prevent plaque building up in the future. If you have severe gum disease, you will need to have further non-surgical treatment and, in some cases, surgical treatment. This will usually be carried out by a specialist in periodontics.
Complications of gum disease
If you have untreated gum disease that develops into periodontitis, it can lead to further complications such as:
- gum abscesses (painful collections of pus)
- damage to the periodontal ligament (the tissue that connects the tooth to the socket)
- damage to the alveolar bone (the bone in the jaw that contains the sockets of the teeth)
- receding gums
- loose teeth
- loss of teeth
What is a Dental Therapist?
A dental therapist receives specialised training in treating the teeth of children and adults, performing local anaesthesia, restorations, cleaning and taking radiographs. A scale and polish with our Dental Hygienist/Therapist can help to remove stains on teeth that have been built up by certain foods and drinks without the need for any complicated procedure or teeth whitening treatment.