There are two main forms of gum disease – gingivitis (inflammation of the gum) – this results in red looking, inflamed gums which may be swollen and bleed on brushing, and periodontitis, which involves bone loss around the teeth.
Gingivitis is totally reversible, but bone loss due to periodontitis is unfortunately irreversible. Patients with periodontitis, may get the same symptoms as gingivitis, ie bleeding gums, but also, there may halitosis (bad breath) and in the later stages of disease , mobility of the teeth, drainage of pus or spaces opening up between the teeth,
All gum disease is caused by plaque which is a sticky mass of bacteria and sugars coating the surface of the teeth. Without plaque, there can be no disease. However, some individuals are far more susceptible to gum disease than others, be it due to the effects of smoking, some health conditions eg diabetes, or their genetic build up. Most patients are not aware that their problem exists until they see a dentist. Gum disease very rarely hurts until very advanced stages.
Left untreated, gum disease can cause progressive loss of bone around the teeth with resulting mobility, gum abscesses with drainage of pus, and eventually tooth loss. Is this inevitable? No, not in this day and age.
Professional treatment coupled with effective brushing, flossing and sometimes, mouthwashes, can help prevent or halt gum disease and the problems it can cause. There is now even some evidence linking gum disease to heart problems in later life, so treating your gums could possibly save more than just your teeth.
Treatment of gum disease is very much a team effort, involving the dentist, patient, hygienist and possibly, if things are very advanced or do not settle, a gum specialist ( Periodontist). From the patient’s perspective, control of gum disease involves almost a lifestyle change as there needs to be a firm commitment to ongoing care, both at home and at the Practice. Gum disease is unfortunately one of those conditions which is never totally cured but merely kept under control, through the care that is given.