What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is where your gums become red, inflamed, bleed and possibly swollen. It commonly starts as gingivitis but can progress further if left untreated.
How does it occur?
Plaque left around the necks of teeth and in the spaces between teeth causes inflammation of the gums. When this happens gingivitis results, at this stage the disease is completely reversible. If left and oral hygiene does not improve there will be gradual loss of attachment of the gum to the tooth and the bone support will reduce. This is where the disease has become periodontitis and is not usually reversible although it can be stopped from worsening.
Receding gums are a common complaint from patients and the primary concern is that this is a sign of gum disease. This is not usually the case. Whilst recession can be a sign, there are many other reasons for this to occur. Heavy handed brushing and tooth grinding are common causes.
When gums recede they often result is more sensitive teeth. This is because the dentine of the root surface becomes exposed. Dentine is made up of millions of tubes which go from the surface to the nerve and are filled with fluid. When stimulated the nerve senses this and the sensitive twinge is felt. Toothpastes like Sensodyne block these tubes and make the teeth less sensitive.
A varnish can also be applied to the surface to help reduce sensitivity.
How is it detected?
During your examination your dentist will look at your soft tissues and the general appearance of your gums.
Why do I need treatment?
Left untreated, gingivitis will eventually progress and start affecting the tissues around the teeth. When this happens the attachment to the root surface is lost leading to periodontal disease, a much harder condition to treat. As these pockets develop and deepen, they become more difficult to clean. The gums will become more inflamed and shrink leading to recession and eventually tooth loss if the teeth become very loose.
What can I do to prevent it?
You can prevent gum disease by controlling the amount of plaque and tarter that build up on your teeth. Regular visits to your dentist, brushing and flossing your teeth properly and regularly, and stopping smoking will help. See the tooth brushing pages for more information.