Periodontal (Gum) Disease
What is gum disease and who does it affect?
Gum disease is caused by bacteria which live in plaque and have the ability to cause bone and soft tissue damage leading to tooth mobility.
‘Pockets’ develop, where the gum has become detached from the root surface. This creates niches in which plaque builds up, leading to increased damage, deeper pockets, more plaque etc. and so the disease spirals on.
According to the Adult Dental Health survey 1998 54% of adults with some or all their teeth had gum disease in one form or another, with the proportion increasing with age. (The 2008 Adult Dental Health Survey is due for publication March 2011, when it is likely that this figure will have increased.)
You are at higher risk of developing gum disease if you have any of the associated risk factors:
- Family history of tooth loss due to periodontal disease
- Irregularly shaped or teeth or roots
- Crowded teeth
- Diabetes, anaemia or other dietary deficiencies
- Problems in the immune system
Can I tell if I have gum disease?
The signs to look out for are:
- Bad breath and or bad taste
- Redness and swelling in the gums
- Bleeding from the gums when you brush them
- Soreness in the gums
- Teeth drifting or appearing to drop below the level of the other teeth
- The gums shrinking and the appearance of black spaces between the teeth
- Teeth feeling loose
- The bite feeling altered
Sometimes the disease can progress slowly without you knowing about it, and other times it is particularly aggressive and bone loss is rapid. It is very important to have your gums checked regularly to ensure any changes are recorded and treated quickly. At Kingswalk Dental Practice we routinely screen every patient at every check up for signs of gum disease.
Can it be treated?
Mild forms of gum disease (gingivitis) can be easily treated with little or no permanent damage being done.
More chronic (longer term) gum disease (periodontitis) can be stabilised with treatment but any bone loss that has already occurred is irreversible. Treatment involves removing all the debris from the root and tooth surfaces (scaling and root planing) and washing out the pockets with chlorhexidine (Corsodyl).
This is usually done over a number of visits under local anaesthesia either with the dentist or hygienist, or alternatively full mouth disinfection can be carried out in one long visit. You will be given a home care plan detailing exactly how you need to clean the teeth and instruction for the use of floss and/or interdental brushes. As much of the work has to be done by the patient at home, success may be dependant on how well the advice is followed. It often means a complete change in oral hygiene habits. The biggest difference you can make is to stop smoking.
How do I prevent gum disease returning?
Once all the pocketing and inflammation have gone you will be given a maintenance programme with the hygienist, which may be anything monthly to three monthly visits. Because bone loss is permanent, you are at risk from pocketing returning, so it is essential to have them checked and professionally cleaned regularly.
Please click here if you would like to arrange an appointment to have your gums checked