What is gum disease?
Screening for gum disease forms an integral part of your routine examination.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal or gum disease is an infection affecting the tissues surrounding the teeth. These tissues include the gums and bone supporting the teeth. Periodontal disease is usually a slow, painless, progressive condition. Most adults with this disease are unaware they have it but if diagnosed and treated early the teeth can be saved.
In it’s early stages it affects the gum only and is called gingivitis. Gingivitis means inflammation of the gums. This is when the gums around the teeth become very red and swollen. Often the swollen gums bleed when they are brushed during cleaning.
This is reversible but if it progresses it begins to attack the bone which holds the tooth in it’s socket and is called periodontitis. This can be treated to stop further bone loss but if left untreated can result in loss of the tooth.
How do I know if I have gum disease?
The first sign is blood on the toothbrush or in the rinsing water when you clean your teeth. Your gums may also bleed when you are eating, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Your breath may also become unpleasant.
Causes of gum disease
All gum disease is caused by plaque. This is a white mass of bacteria which adheres to teeth, crowns, bridges, dentures and soft tissues. When plaque is not removed it irritates the gums causing them to become red, tender and bleed easily. Over time it hardens and is then known as tartar which requires removal by professional intervention. The constant irritation from tartar results in gums becoming detached from the roots allowing ‘pockets’ to form around the teeth. Bacteria in these pockets begin to destroy bone that holds the tooth in place which may result in the tooth becoming loose and eventually lost.
Smoking is another risk factor that increases the risk of gum disease.
Smoking has many affects on oral health. It can cause an increase in plaque and tartar and cause staining. Smoking reduces the blood flow to the gums hence destroying all the supportive structures. This can lead to the gums receding, tooth movement and tooth loss. Smoking will also cause furring of the tongue, increasing bad breadth.
There are also a number of other host factors that can worsen periodontal disease such as diabetes mellitus, puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. The underlying cause is still plaque but these conditions can worsen your periodontal condition.
Management of gum disease