Gum disease is surprisingly common and is often under-diagnosed. It is estimated that 50 to 90 per cent of the adult population has some degree of gum disease in the UK.
It can cause swollen gums, ulcers and bleeding when brushing. For something that can be prevented with due care, it is shocking that so many people are unaware of the dangers of this condition. Recent evidence suggests gum disease can be linked to blood clotting, heart disease and strokes.
A healthy set of gums are pink and firm, keeping teeth anchored in place. They should not bleed when you touch them or brush your teeth. A good Oral hygiene routine will ensure that this is maintained.
Noticeable features of gum disease are:
Swelling and redness of the gums.
Gum which start to bleed after brushing or flossing.
Bad breath. This may also include a foul taste in the mouth.
Sensitive teeth, which react to hot and cold liquid or simply when touched. Teeth may also fall out during much more advanced stages of this condition.
Pus seeping from the gums. Further, abscesses may also form with pus forming under the gums and teeth.
If such symptoms are recognised early, input from a dentist or hygienist can help stop gum disease progression, before it has started to cause any real damage. By allowing gum disease to fester and develop, gum disease can cause a smile to deteriorate rapidly.
Gum problems is something we look out for routinely and is one of the many things we check for during routine ‘Check up’s.’ Scaling’s are used to routinely to remove gum irritants such as plaque and calculus which contribute to and exacerbate gum problems. We take gum problems seriously; as such we have an in-house resident hygienist who is very highly regarded by those who have seen her. She helps treat and maintain people regarding their gums. Initially, going to the hygienist may be questioned by some people but once they have seen what she does, the only question they ask is ‘when do want to see me next?’
How to tell if you have gum disease
Despite its title, gum disease is not always painful and some people are not even aware they have it. Symptoms of gum disease typically can include:-
The usual alert to gum disease is bleeding gums after you brush or floss your teeth and/or red or swollen gums. This is the first stage of gum disease and is called gingivitis. If gingivitis is left untreated then the disease may progress and affect the tissues within the mouth and the jaw bone.
This later stage is called periodontitis or periodontal disease. Symptoms of periodontitis can include bad breath commonly called halitosis, an unpleasant taste in your mouth and gum abscesses which are pockets of infection. Teeth may even become loose and fall out.
Regular 6 monthly check-ups with your dentist or dental hygienist can alert you to the early signs of gum disease which are treatable and reversible.
How does gum diesease start?
Gum disease is caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that sticks to the teeth and some of these bacteria are harmful to your gums. Bacteria in plaque produce acid after you eat or drink and these acids can damage tooth enamel and lead to gingivitis or early gum disease. Plaque can also develop plaque under the gums on tooth roots which wear down the bones that support the teeth. Most adults in the UK have gum disease at some point in their lives even in a mild form.
Can gum disease be cured?
Gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults but it can be cured during its early stages. Regular dental check ups are really important as some people may not realise they have gum disease. Early-stage gum disease or gingivitis can be managed with a thorough clean at your dental surgery and the removal of any hardened plaque and calculus or tartar through de-scaling. Twice daily brushing and flossing should help keep gum disease at bay. For more serious periodontal disease, your dentist can advise you of the available treatment options but once gum disease has progressed beyond a certain point, then some of the changes within the mouth may be irreversible. This is why it is so important to maintain good dental hygiene protocols and see your dentist for regular check-ups as gum disease caught early can be treated.
Does gum disease treatment hurt?
If you have visible gum disease then your gums may be inflamed, sensitive and sore. Treatment can therefore be a little uncomfortable. Some dentists use an ultrasonic scaler rather than the traditional manual method to remove the build-up of scale and plaque as this is less uncomfortable. Ultrasonic scalers can be adjusted to different settings and are better able to respond to patient comfort. A local anaesthetic is another option if the treatment is likely to be prolonged or invasive.
Sometimes gums can feel a little sore after treatment, this can be managed with some over the counter pain relief like Ibuprofen or Paracetamol. Good mouth hygiene is important afterwards too as this will help the gums recover more quickly. Your teeth may be sensitive to very hot or cold foods and liquids so it is best to avoid these for a couple of days until the gums feel less sensitive. Softer foods will feel more comfortable than chewy or tough meals. You may experience some minor bleeding when you brush your teeth but this will stop and is not a reason to avoid brushing.
What is root planing?
Root planing is another form of treatment for gum disease which is often used alongside traditional de-scaling methods. Root planing involves a deeper probe to smooth out any rough areas on the surface of the root. Smooth root surfaces make it more difficult for tartar and bacteria to adhere underneath the gumline. Root planing reduces gum tissue inflammation allowing your gums to heal and reattach themselves more firmly to the teeth. If infection is likely to be a problem then the dentist can also place medication directly into the area being treated.
Are some people more prone to gum disease than others?
Aside from poor oral hygiene, there are other factors which can predispose to gum disease and these include:-
Smoking or chewing tobacco
Crooked or irregular teeth which are hard to clean properly
Certain medications including steroids, cancer therapy drugs and some types of anti-epilepsy medication
How does gum disease affect the body?
Many people are not aware that the state of your teeth can have a big impact on your overall health. Gum disease has been linked to other medical problems and conditions elsewhere in the body, these include heart disease, diabetes and stroke. There are also links from gum disease to problems in pregnancy and dementia.
The links between gum disease and other medical problems are well-founded and supported with scientific evidence but many people are unaware of this. Serious gum inflammation affects the circulation in the body via the bloodstream and can damage blood vessels in the heart and brain over a long period of time.
What happens if gum disease is not treated?
Gum disease can progress in sinister silence so some people are unaware they have it and don’t appreciate the damage it is doing. For some people, the bacteria are more active and this makes the gums inflamed and sore and there may be telltale bleeding after brushing, all common symptoms of gum disease.
Untreated, gum disease will cause deterioration of the bone which supports the teeth and over time, the teeth will loosen and may be lost. Gum disease which is left untreated for a long time also becomes more difficult to treat effectively.