What is Periodontal (gum) Disease?
This is the general term describing inflammation of the supporting tissue of the teeth. Another term for gum disease is “gingivitis”. When the inflammation of the gums reaches the bone it is termed “periodontitis”
The signs of gum disease are:
- Red swollen gums, which bleed on brushing. This is often the first indication of periodontal disease.
- Gum shrinkage and loosening of teeth occur at the later stages of periodontitis.
- Bad breath
- Teeth drifting apart.
What do normal gums look like?
Normal gums have a pink, firm matt appearance. The edges cannot normally be separated from the teeth and there is no bleeding when the teeth are brushed.
How does gum disease start?
If plaque is allowed to build up on teeth, poisons produced by the bacteria make the gums inflamed. This early stage of periodontal disease is called gingivitis. In time, the plaque on the crown of the tooth may spread below the gum level: and this results in bone destruction and the formation of “pockets” (space between the tooth and gum). As more bone is destroyed, the tooth begins to loosen and, as the pockets get deeper, abscesses often occur. Sometimes the gum will shrink as bone underneath is destroyed so that part of the root will become visible in the mouth. However, the disease may reach an advanced stage without causing pain.
Facts about gum disease.
Not all the teeth may be affected by gum disease. The disease is usually more severe towards the back of the mouth and between the teeth: these are areas that are difficult to clean.
Some people have a very strong inborn resistance and don’t experience severe periodontal disease even when their oral hygiene is poor. Other people, although perfectly healthy, have a low resistance to periodontal disease and have to achieve virtually perfect oral hygiene to prevent it.
Even though you always brushed your teeth twice a day, you still get gum disease? The reason for this is that you probably miss the same parts of your mouth every time you brush and these will be areas affected by the disease. So perhaps you need to spend more time and improve your method of brushing.
The good news is that if the periodontal disease is not too advanced, there is a cure for this disease. The treatment will depend on how far the inflammation has reached. Teeth which are affected only by gingivitis can be treated relatively easily with very good results. The hygienist will make sure that your teeth are free from calculus and that you know how to clean properly.
For good results you must first be shown how to brush properly and how to clean between your teeth. The calculus will be removed from the pockets by scaling and root planning which may require several visits.
As the crowns and roots become clean, the inflammation will disappear and the gums will tighten up around the root surface. Any redness or swelling in the gums should disappear and loose teeth may become firmer.
Remember that if you go back to your old tooth cleaning habits, the gum disease will recur.