Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a common condition that affects millions of people in the UK alone. It’s more prevalent amongst adults and most of us can expect to experience the condition at least once during our lifetime.
So far, so bad, but what is gum disease exactly – and importantly, how can we treat and prevent it?
What is gum disease?
Gum disease is a condition that causes your gums to become sore, puffy, and in some cases, infected. It usually starts as gingivitis and an early warning sign is blood when you brush. If it’s left untreated, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis – a more advanced form of gum disease.
Periodontitis affects not only your gums, but the other structures that support your teeth, including the bone and soft tissues. If periodontitis isn’t treated promptly your gums and bone may recede, which in severe cases can lead to tooth loss.
Gum disease symptoms
It’s really important to spot the early signs of gum disease and tackle them before they turn into something more serious. Here’s what to look out for:
Early signs of gum disease
- Gums that bleed when you brush
- Gums that look red and inflamed
Advanced signs of gum disease
- Bad breath and/or a nasty taste in your mouth
- Gaps between your teeth and gums
- Loose teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Pain when chewing
- Gum abscesses
If you experience any of the above symptoms make an appointment to see your dentist. They aren’t always an indication of gum disease so it’s important to receive a professional diagnosis.
To assess the extent of your gum disease, your dentist will carefully examine your gums and they may also need to take some X-rays to check your bone levels.
Treating gum disease
Gum disease is usually caused by a build-up of plaque, which contains bacteria that irritate your gums. For most patients, the early signs of gum disease can be treated by improving their oral hygiene routine and ensuring plaque is effectively removed daily by brushing and flossing.
When plaque is left on the teeth it will eventually turn into tartar, also known as calculus. If this does happen you’ll need to visit your dentist or hygienist so it can be removed using specialist tools.
If your gum disease is more advanced you will need more proactive treatment and we may refer you to see a specialist periodontist. A periodontist is a dental specialist who has been specially trained to treat and manage conditions affecting the gums.
Treatments for more severe gum disease include:
Root planning – this involves carefully cleaning the roots of your teeth to remove plaque and tartar.
Root debridement – this is similar to root planning but more thorough. It includes cleaning the root surface as well as the pocket between your gums and teeth and the underlying tissues.
Soft tissue graft – if gums have receded they can sometimes be ‘rebuilt’ through a gum graft, where tissue is taken from another area to replace what’s been lost.
The Pinhole Technique – this is a newer alternative treatment to a gum graft, which involves stretching the gum you have to cover any recession.
Bone graft – we can also replace depleted bone by performing a bone graft using bone from a different area of your mouth or body, or synthetic bone.
Guided tissue regeneration – this involves stimulating and guiding the growth of your bone and soft tissues using barrier membranes. These membranes keep the gum tissue and bone separate so they can regrow in the correct proportions.
Tooth Extraction – if a tooth cannot be saved it may be necessary to remove it and replace it with a bridge, dental implant or denture.
Sometimes your dentist or periodontist will prescribe antibiotics to take during your treatment. Some treatments such as root planning may also require a local anaesthetic to ensure you don’t experience any discomfort.
How to prevent gum disease
Plaque builds up naturally on our teeth and must be removed daily, so the best thing you can do to prevent gum disease is brush your teeth twice a day – and floss too!
Sugary foods and drinks exacerbate the problem by feeding the bacteria in plaque. This helps them to multiply faster and it can make certain types of bacteria more difficult to brush away.
To find out more about managing and preventing gum disease, visit our team for a comprehensive dental health check.