Gum (Periodontal) Disease
Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is an inflammatory disease that can affect the gums and other supporting structures around your teeth. It’s the leading cause of tooth loss among adults.
Gum disease is caused by the same bacteria responsible for tooth decay. These bacteria form plaque on your teeth, which can also irritate and infect your gums.
There are two stages of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease. When plaque reaches the gum line, it can cause the gums to become irritated and inflamed. They may also appear red and puffy or bleed at certain times, such as when you brush your teeth.
Gingivitis can usually be reversed by improving your oral hygiene routine or with hygiene treatments from our clinical team of dentists and hygienists.
Periodontitis is the advanced and more damaging form of gum disease. This happens when inflammation of the gums spreads to the jaw and supporting structures of your teeth, destroying bone tissue and causing teeth to loosen and eventually fall out.
Pockets of plaque and tartar can also start to accumulate under the gums, which can’t be reached with a toothbrush or floss.
Periodontitis may require a deep cleaning treatment to remove plaque from beneath the gums. In more severe cases, you may need oral surgery.
Poor oral hygiene is the most common reason people develop gum disease. If you don’t brush and floss your teeth correctly, or you have too much sugar in your diet, plaque can build up on your teeth and spread to your gums.
You’ll also be at higher risk of gum disease if you smoke, you’re pregnant, you’re under a lot of stress or you have a medical condition such as diabetes or a weakened immune system.
Older people are more likely to get gum disease, but it can develop at any age. You’ll also be at higher risk if you have a family history of the condition.
The early stage of gum disease (gingivitis) is often identified by redness or swelling in the gums. Your gums may also bleed when touched or when you brush and floss your teeth. Healthy gums should appear pink and not bleed.
As gum disease develops, you might notice other symptoms including bad breath (halitosis), a bad taste in your mouth and teeth starting to loosen.
Not everyone gets these symptoms however, which is why it’s important to keep up with your regular dental appointments. It’s possible to have advanced gum disease without knowing it, if you don’t experience any pain.
If you have any of the symptoms of gum disease, you should make an appointment at our dental clinic. We’ll conduct a full assessment of your oral health to determine whether you have gum disease, how far it’s progressed and to recommend suitable treatments.
If your gum disease is mild and still in the early stage, improving your oral hygiene may be all that’s needed to make it go away. We may also prescribe an antiseptic mouthwash to help reduce the bacteria in your mouth and perform a scale and polish treatment to remove hardened plaque (tartar) from your teeth.
If gum disease has already reached the roots of your teeth, we’ll recommend root planing. This deep cleaning treatment removes bacteria from around your teeth roots and disinfects your gums. We’ll use local anaesthetic to numb your mouth and reduce pain and discomfort during the treatment.
If any of your teeth have already been irreparably damaged by periodontitis, we may have to extract them to protect your other teeth. We’ll discuss replacement options such as dental implants, crowns and bridges to restore the strength and appearance of your smile.
Gum disease treatments have minimal risks. If you need to have a root planing treatment or other oral surgery*, you may feel some pain and discomfort in your gums for up to 48 hours. If these symptoms continue for longer, contact us to arrange an emergency appointment.
If gum disease isn’t treated, it can have many complications. The disease has been linked to other serious health problems such as heart disease and respiratory infections, as well as premature birth for pregnant women. If you have diabetes or other medical conditions, gum disease can be an aggravating factor.
* Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding with a surgical or invasive procedure, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
The best treatment for gum disease is to stop it from happening in the first place. When you follow your dentist’s advice and practise good oral hygiene every day, you’ll significantly lower your risk of gum disease, tooth decay and other oral health problems.
We recommend that you brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss every day and avoid overly sugary and acidic food and drink. You should also try to give up smoking, eat a balanced diet and make sure you visit your dentist every six months for your regular check-up.