Gum Disease

What is gum disease?

Gum disease is best described as a swelling or any soreness or infection in the tissues that support the teeth. The most common forms of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontal disease.

What is the condition - gingivitis?

Gingivitis literally means 'inflammation of the gums'. This is when the gums that surround the base of the teeth appear swollen and red. Often the swollen gums bleed when teeth are cleaned.

How is periodontal disease described?  

If gingivitis is untreated or long-standing it can turn into periodontal disease. Periodontal disease comes in several types all of which affect the tissues that support the teeth. As the disease worsens the bone that anchors the teeth in the jaw is lost, leaving the teeth loose. If untreated, the teeth may, over time, fall or have to be taken out.

How do I know if I might suffer from gum disease?

You probably will, because most people suffer from some form of gum disease, which is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. The disease develops slowly in most people, and if it is identified and treated it can be slowed down so that you should be able to keep most of your teeth for your lifetime.

What causes gum disease?

Gum disease is always caused by plaque. Plaque is bacteria that forms on the surface of all of our teeth, every day. Many of these bacteria are harmless, but some have been shown to be a direct cause of gum disease. To prevent and to treat gum disease, all the plaque needs to be removed from your teeth every day by brushing and cleaning between the teeth with floss or 'interdental' brushes. Poor oral hygiene - not brushing your teeth regularly or properly will cause plaque to build up.

What is Plaque?

Your mouth is full of bacteria - that is quite normal. The bacteria will combine with food particles and saliva into a sticky film - plaque, and that will build up on your teeth.

What will the symptoms of gum disease be?

Healthy gums look pink, and firm and keep teeth securely in place. Your gums should never bleed when you touch them or brush your teeth and gums.

Gum disease will not always be painful and you might well be unaware that you have it. This is why it is so important to keep up regular check ups with your dentist.

What are the early symptoms?

The initial symptoms to look out for might include:

  • Swollen red gums
  • Gums that bleed after flossing or brushing teeth

At this stage gum disease is called gingivitis.

What are the advanced symptoms of gum disease?

Left untreated gingivitis will progress until the tissues and bone that support the teeth are also affected. The condition is then known as periodontitis.

Periodontitis symptoms can include:

  • Halitosis - bad breath
  • A bad taste in your mouth
  • Teeth that are loose and that make eating difficult
  • Abscesses that for in the gums or under the teeth.

Treatment for gum disease

Prevention is definitely better than a cure in the case of periodontitis where good oral hygiene is key.

Oral hygiene

Good oral hygiene is:

  • Brushing teeth for two to three minutes in the morning and at night preferably with an electric toothbrush
  • Using fluoride toothpaste to help protect against decay
  • Flossing regularly
  • Not smoking
  • Visiting your dentist for regular check ups.


Antiseptic mouthwashes are available over the counter from pharmacies, and can help.

Dental treatments

Some of these dental treatments might also be recommended if you have gum disease.

Scale and polishing

To remove plaque and tartar that has built up on your teeth, your dentist may suggest you have your teeth scaled and polished - a professional clean usually carried out by a dental hygienist.

Root planing

In some cases root planing debridement may be needed. This is a deep clean under the gums to get rid of bacteria from the roots of the teeth.

Possible further treatment

If your gum disease is severe you might need further treatment, such as periodontal surgery. Sometimes the affected tooth will have to be removed. Your dentist will explain what the procedure involves, and how it is carried out.

How does smoking affect my gums and teeth?

Smoking can make gum disease worse. People who smoke produce more bacterial plaque, and that leads to gum disease. The gums are affected because smoking leads to a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream and that means that the infected gums don't heal. In smokers gum disease worsens more quickly than in non-smokers. Gum disease is still a major cause of adults tooth loss.

How will I know if I have gum disease?

The first sign will most probably be blood, when you brush your teeth, either on your toothbrush or in the water when you clean your teeth. Your gums might bleed when you eat, and there might be a bad taste in your mouth. Your breath may also be smelly.

If I think I have gum disease what should I do?

The first thing is to visit your dental team for a thorough check of your mouth, teeth and gums. The 'cuff' of gum around each tooth will be measured to check for any sign that there is periodontal disease. X-rays may be taken to check how much bone has been lost. This assessment is vital so that the right treatment can be planned for you.

What treatments are there for gum disease?

All plaque and tartar will be removed from your teeth and you will be shown how to remove plaque yourself, cleaning your teeth thoroughly sometimes over several visits. Good oral care at home with brushing and interdental cleaning is the best thing you can do to help prevent gum disease worsening.

Once I have had a diagnosis of periodontal disease, can it recur?

There is no cure for periodontal disease, but as long as you keep up the home care and see the dentist regularly it can be controlled. Further loss of bone will be slow and might stop altogether.

Is gum disease is linked with other health conditions?

Gum disease has been linked with some general health conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, strokes, poor pregnancy outcomes and even dementia. More research is needed about these but there is more and more evidence that having a healthy mouth and gums will improve general health.


At Dentist Near Me we can help you by supplying you with the details of dental professionals at locations close to you.