Gum Disease

What is gum disease?

Gum disease is a condition which damages the supporting structures which help keep teeth in the bone.  Gum disease has two general forms – gingivitis and periodontitis.

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is swelling and inflammation of the gum surrounding the teeth.  It may be associated with all, some or individual teeth in the jaw.  A common symptom is bleeding gums.

What is periodontitis?

If gingivitis progresses it may affect the supporting structures of the tooth, which is termed periodontitis. The bone supporting the teeth in the jaw is destroyed and the teeth may become loose and painful

What should I look for?

You may be suffering from gingivitis/periodontitis if you have the following symptoms

  • bad breath (halitosis)
  • bleeding gums
  • swollen gums
  • sore gums
  • loose teeth

However once the symptoms occur much of the damage may have already occurred. Unfortunately periodontal disease may progress without any symptoms therefore it is vital that you maintain regular checkups and appointments with the hygienist.

Patients who may be more susceptible to gum disease include:

  • diabetics,
  • smokers,
  • people experiencing hormonal changes,
  • people on certain medications / medical conditions
  • those simply genetically susceptible to gum disease.

Can bone loss be reversed?

Unfortunately trying to regenerate bone that has been lost is extremely difficult.  The aim of periodontal treatment on the whole is to stop or slow down the rate of bone loss.

What treatments are available?

The mainstay of treatment is to undergo regular hygiene treatment and reduce risk factors such as smoking and utilising effective oral hygiene techniques.  For specific cases periodontal surgery may be advised.

If teeth need to be lost they may be able to be replaced with dental implants, bridges or dentures.

What can I do to prevent gum disease?

As gum disease is caused primarily by dental plaque, the most effective way to prevent gum disease is to ensure that all plaque is removed. The simple way to do this is by regular brushing and flossing. It is also important to keep up regular visits to the hygienist to help you with this. It is also a good idea to cut down smoking or stop altogether

Are there any treatments available?

Yes. After a consultation with your dentist, you may be referred to see a hygienist or a periodontist. Early intervention means treatment is more likely to be successful.

What is a periodontist?

A periodontist is a dentist who has undertaken further postgraduate training in periodontology (gums). They have more experience and expertise in treating gum disease. Periodontists are likely to achieve the best outcome rather than a general dentist.

What can be done if I lose teeth because of gum disease?

Provided the gum disease is stabilised, you can consider dental implants, bridges or dentures. Your dentist would assess your condition and offer you some treatment options