Gum disease or periodontal disease is a bacterial infection caused by accumulation of dental plaque on the teeth. It is a disease that affects the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. Gingivitis is an early stage of periodontal disease where the gums may become red, swollen and bleed easily. It begins in early childhood and increases in prevalence and severity in the early teenage years.
The first signs of swollen gums are most obvious between the teeth. The gum tissue that fills the space between your teeth is called the papilla.
When healthy, this part of your gum should be pink and firm against your teeth.
If the papilla is unhealthy it looks red, swollen and loose. Unhealthy gum tissue may bleed easily when you brush, floss or even touch it.
Gingivitis is usually painless and, if not treated, can advance to periodontitis. Periodontitis is a more advanced stage of periodontal disease. As the bone and tissues surrounding the teeth deteriorate due to this disease, a gum pocket forms around the tooth. This pocket becomes infected, which destroys more bone and tissue. Eventually, the tooth becomes loose and falls out or needs to be extracted.
Bacteria present in plaque cause periodontal disease. If not removed carefully each day by brushing and flossing, plaque hardens into a rough, porous substance called calculus (also known as tartar). Toxins (poisons), produced by bacteria in plaque, irritate the gums. Left in place, the toxins cause the gums to pull away from the teeth and periodontal pockets are formed which fill with more toxins and bacteria. As the disease progresses, pockets extend deeper and the plaque moves farther and farther down until the bone that holds the tooth in place is destroyed. The tooth eventually will fall out or require extraction.
Red, swollen or tender gums
Bleeding while brushing or flossing
Gums that pull away from the teeth
Loose or separating teeth
Pus between the gum and the tooth
Persistent bad breath
A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
A change in the fit of partial dentures
Sometimes gum disease can progress without any symptoms or pain. During a regular dental examination, the dentist checks for signs of periodontal disease, so undetected disease can be treated before it can advance.
Gum Disease Diagnosis and Prevention
Proper brushing twice a day and flossing daily will help prevent periodontal disease. During a regular dental examination, the dentist or hygienist will inspect the gums and probe between the tooth and gum to check for periodontal disease.
A professional cleaning every three to six months by a dentist or dental hygienist will remove plaque and calculus from hard-to-reach areas that might otherwise be susceptible to periodontal disease. If signs of disease have progressed to a certain point, the dentist may suggest the patient see a periodontist – a dentist who specializes in the treatment of periodontal disease.
Value of Natural Teeth and Healthy Gums
Look nice – sex appeal. “Your teeth are the heart of your smile”.
A clean and comfortable mouth helps your sense of well-being, self esteem and pride in your appearance.
Enjoyment of food. Ability to chew and taste food.
Ability to speak with confidence. No impediment from loose or ill-fitting dentures, or fear of a bad breath.
What happens if you have Gum Disease?
Bleeding gums when cleaning teeth, or eating food.
Unsightly appearance of unhealthy and red gums. Your smile can ‘turn people off’.
Bad Breath (halitosis) from poorly cleaned or uncleansable teeth and diseased gums.
If untreated, can lead to premature tooth loss. This can have an effect on your appearance, chewing and tasting food, speaking and comfort.