A Guide to Gum Disease

First things first, let’s start with the bad news. The fact is that most of us have gum disease. A lot of people look surprised when their dentist tells them that. However, gum disease is usually caused by the build-up of plaque and plaque, unfortunately, builds up at a constant rate. So to some extent, gum disease – even in a fairly mild form – is inevitable.

The second part of the bad news is that gum disease, as well as being inevitable, is also incurable. Most of us suffer from gum disease and, as we grow older, it is more than likely going to get worse. In fact, gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. That means it is even more dangerous to the health of our teeth than tooth decay.

So far, then, it is not a pretty picture, is it? But the truth of the matter is that, if we want to keep our teeth healthy, we cannot ignore gum disease.

There are two types of gum disease. But before we look at those, let’s learn a little bit more about plaque. Plaque is essentially the name given to all the debris that gathers on and around our teeth during a normal day. Bits of food get caught in our teeth after meals and if you don’t clean them away regularly, these bits of food attract bacteria. It is this bacteria that can lead to decay, halitosis and gingivitis.

Gingivitis is the first form of gum disease. If plaque is allowed to build-up without being removed, it hardens into calculus and this can begin, over time, to irritate your gums. The gums become tender and inflamed, and you may notice some spots of blood on your toothbrush when you clean your teeth.

Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease and its development can be arrested. If you have the symptoms mentioned above, you should contact your dentist. A thorough scale and polish by a hygienist will help to remove the calculus and stop your gums from being irritated and damaged by bacteria.

If you have gingivitis, it is also important to discuss with your dentist why you may have developed it in the first place. The build-up of plaque is unstoppable, so there will always be some deterioration of your gums. However, regular teeth cleaning and visits to the dentist should be enough to ensure that gum disease does not become a serious issue. Ask your dentist if you are cleaning your teeth correctly. Alternatively, if you are missing check-ups, make sure you are stricter with yourself in the future.

If plaque is allowed to build-up on your teeth unchecked, it can turn into gingivitis. If gingivitis is not treated, then it can develop into periodontitis. This is the second form of gum disease and is more serious than gingivitis. It usually means that the gum disease has spread from the gums and attached the bone around the roots of the teeth. In some advanced cases, this may have already caused the teeth to become loose.

The solution to periodontitis is a much deeper clean of your teeth, which is usually done under local anaesthetic. This allows your dentist to clean deeply around the roots of the teeth and into the areas where the gums have receded and allowed plaque to collect. This type of clean can take a couple of appointments to complete effectively. In very advanced cases, your dentist may have to cut and lift the gums away to clean effectively around the base of the teeth, that stitch the gums back into place.

For most people, the issue with gum disease is not whether they have it; it is whether they allow it to accelerate and cause problems with their teeth. As plaque builds up constant, the battle to remove it must also be constant. Always clean your teeth twice every day – remembering to spend time reaching those difficult areas. Never miss an appointment with your dentist, as they will remove plaque that brushing misses. You should also floss in between your teeth regularly to remove trapped food. Other factors, such as smoking, can also accelerate gum disease.