WHAT IS GUM DISEASE?
Periodontal disease, another name for gum disease is caused by bacteria that collects at the gum line as dental plaque. The plaque needs to be removed by brushing and cleaning between the teeth twice a day. If not properly cleaned, the gum starts to come away from the tooth, forming pockets and the plaque grows down below the gum line. Over time, the bone that supports the teeth is destroyed, the gums shrink and eventually the teeth become wobbly and fall out.
It’s important to know that, despite it being one of the most wide-spread diseases across the world, it is preventable and can be easily treated when it is found early enough.
WHO CAN GET GUM DISEASE?
Most people can get mild gum disease but some people are susceptible to more aggressive forms. Severe gum disease, especially if you have it at a young age, can run in families.
Around 10% of the population is susceptible. Our knowledge is improving all the time of why this is. There are a few factors that leave patients more susceptible, they include:
- diabetes (especially if poorly controlled)
- smoking (possibly including e-cigarettes)
- a poor diet lacking in vitamins and minerals
- certain medications.
DO YOU HAVE PERIODONTAL DISEASE?
Periodontal disease is usually pain-free (sometimes called ‘the silent disease’) and so you may be unaware of it until it is picked up by a dental professional.
Here are some ‘red flags’ – symptoms you may notice that should raise concerns:
- Bleeding gums when brushing or even whilst eating
- Red, swollen gums
- Bad breath
- Spaces appearing between teeth
- Loose teeth or teeth moving position in the mouth
- Receding gums
- Sensitivity to cold or hot foods and drinks
WHAT DOES TREATMENT INVOLVE?
- Treatment aims to reduce bacteria around your teeth and prevent the disease from getting worse. Generally though, treatment cannot replace the support your teeth have already lost.
- You will be taught the best methods of cleaning your teeth and gums to remove dental plaque.
- Treatment will only work if you clean your teeth properly, twice a day, to a high standard
- You need to clean daily between your teeth with interdental brushes – or floss if the gaps between teeth are too tight for brushes
- You should use a small headed toothbrush or a good quality power brush
- The tartar above the gum-line can be removed professionally
- Any bacteria below the gum line can be removed professionally whilst your teeth undergo a deep clean. Your gums and teeth may require numbing up.
- Mouthwashes may help with very mild gum disease but may mask more serious gum disease
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF TREATMENT?
- Your gums will be healthier and you may notice such benefits as
- greater confidence of a fresher mouth
- gums not being sore or bleeding when you brush
- teeth becoming less wobbly
- less discomfort when you eat
- and ultimately, you will keep your teeth for longer
Success depends on how well you clean your teeth and how your gums respond. Cleaning thoroughly twice a day and regular dental visits are good habits to adopt for life.
WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT AFTER TREATMENT?
- Your gums are likely to bleed more to start with – don’t worry and keep cleaning as this is normal and will improve
- As they become healthier your gums may shrink. Spaces may appear between the teeth and they may appear longer
- As gums shrink, your teeth may become more sensitive to hot, cold or sweet things. Usually this gets better in a few weeks, but you might need to use a special sensitivity toothpaste or have other treatment to help with this
WHAT ARE THE AVAILABLE ALTERNATIVES?
Results of no treatment
- The gum disease is likely to get worse
- Your teeth could become wobbly with gaps appearing between your teeth
- Your breath will not improve
- Your gums and teeth could become painful
- You are highly likely to lose your teeth sooner
- Removal (extraction) of teeth may be an acceptable alternative treatment if your disease is severe.
- You may wish to have replacements for any lost teeth by means of a denture, bridge or an implant. Implants are only recommended if the gum disease is no longer present
- People find it easier and more enjoyable to eat with natural teeth rather than replacements
- Extractions would reduce the time spent treating your gums n An extraction would remove a painful tooth quickly
- If your front teeth have a poor appearance, a denture or a bridge may look better
If you smoke tobacco you should do your best to give up – there are plenty of organisations that can help. Smokers who continue to smoke:
- are more likely to get gum disease
- may find their gum disease gets worse quite quickly
- are less likely to get better after treatment
- are more likely to have a recurrence of gum disease following treatment
Did You know…
- Gum disease is completely treatable if diagnosed early enough
- Over half the population has gum disease, often without knowing
- Gum disease is linked to a number of health conditions including diabetes
- Gum disease can lead to bad breath, loose teeth and painful gums if left untreated