Everything you need to know about gum disease

When many think of their oral health, the first thing that comes to mind is their teeth. However, your gums have just as much of a role to play and require regular checks and hygiene. If you’re not actively practising daily oral hygiene, you may start to develop gum disease.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease occurs from a build-up of bacteria in the plaque between the teeth. When the bacteria become overgrown, they cause the gums to inflame and bleed when brushing your teeth. 

Gum disease has two main forms:

Gingivitis is characterised by mild inflammation of the gums due to an infection.

Periodontitis is an advanced form of gingivitis caused by an infection that can damage soft tissue and even destroy bone in the surrounding area if left untreated. 

Periodontitis starts as gingivitis and worsens over time, but not every case of gingivitis becomes severe. The key is seeking treatment early enough.

Causes

A build-up of bacteria in plaque is the main reason for gum disease, but several factors can contribute.

  • Poor oral hygiene: Practising regular oral hygiene is one of the most effective ways to prevent gum disease. Forgetting to floss, brush and use mouthwash daily can lead to plaque build-up and form a breeding ground for infection-causing bacteria.
  • Poor lifestyle habits: Smoking and drinking alcohol can lead to lowered immune function, making it more difficult for the body to heal itself.
  • Hormonal changes: During hormonal cycles such as pregnancy, menopause and menstruation, the gums become more sensitive and prone to infection. 
  • Medication: Certain medications can cause abnormal gum tissue to develop, which leads to inflammation. Others lower the production of saliva, which is crucial for protecting the teeth and gums.
  • Illness: Diseases that impact the immune system, such as diabetes, cancer and HIV, make it easier for the body to contract infections, including those causing gum disease. They also prevent the body from being able to heal itself properly.
  • Genetics: A history of dental diseases in the family can make gum disease more prevalent in specific individuals.

Treatment and prevention

One of the easiest ways to prevent gum disease is by practising regular oral hygiene. You should be brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing after meals and using mouthwash to rinse your mouth.

Another way to ensure that you prevent gum disease from becoming severe is by visiting your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings. During a check-up, your teeth and gums are examined and cleaned, so if there are any signs of inflammation or redness, your dentist will identify them and advise on a treatment plan.

The treatment for gum disease varies from case to case, depending on the severity. For example, if you have gingivitis or your periodontitis is not as advanced, your dentist may recommend non-invasive treatments, including:

  • Medication: Antibiotics in the form of a mouthwash or pill help clear the infection and control the bacteria in the mouth. 
  • Scaling: Your dentist will use special tools to physically remove the build-up of tartar between and underneath the gums.
  • Root planing: A deep clean of the teeth and roots can clear the build-up, remove bacteria, and prevent further infection that causes gum inflammation.

In severe cases of gum disease, your dentist will recommend dental surgery to clear the disease. Find out more about our dental treatments here.

If you are experiencing inflammation, bleeding and receding gums, contact us to arrange a check-up.

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