Gum disease is an infection of the gums caused by plaque, which is film of bacteria that collects on the teeth and gums. Plaque makes acids and toxins that makes the gums red, puffy and bleed. The bleeding may not be noticed if you are not brushing and flossing your teeth properly or if you smoke.
If the gum disease is caught early then it may not have causes any permanent damage, but over time it will lead to the gums pulling away from your teeth, gaps between the teeth, and formation of pockets between the bone and tooth surface. This is a more serious infection that irreversibly destroys the bone surrounding the teeth.
Whilst gum disease is common it is not normal and many people don’t know they have gum disease. Often, the slow progression of the disease means you might only notice that there is something serious at later stages of the disease when teeth are loose and it may be too late to do anything at that stage. There are also some types of gum disease that can cause a lot of damage to your gums quickly and need to be looked at by the dentist quickly. People with this type of gum disease usually have pain and ulcers on the gums.
That is why it is important to see your dental team regularly for checkups and cleaning.
Signs of gum disease to look out for are red puffy gums, tartar build up and bleeding when you brush or floss. These are early forms of gum disease called gingivitis and will respond to scaling, regular brushing and flossing. If you notice gum recession, tooth pain or sensitivity, persistent bad breath, adult teeth that are loose or develop gaps or changes in the way your teeth fit when you bite down then the disease will have progressed to the more serious stage called adult periodontitis.
Your dentist will advise you on bushing and flossing but you cant remove the tartar at home and it will need to be removed by your dentist or hygienist. It is removed using special tools called scalers and the process is called scaling. You may be advised that you need a referral to a gum specialist called a Periodontist.
Your dentist or hygienist will advise you to come back to have another look at the health of your gums at a suitable interval based on your individual needs. Be sure to take care of your teeth and gums between regular dental visits. Plaque is constantly forming on your teeth but you can keep it under control by brushing your teeth properly for two minutes twice daily with a toothpaste that contains fluoride. You should also clean the areas between your teeth once a day using dental floss or interdental brushes. Use a mouthwash to reduce the plaque bacteria, but remember it is not a substitute for good brushing and flossing, and make sure that it is intended for long term daily use.