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Gum Disease (periodontitis)

What is gum disease?

Gum disease is also known as periodontitis and gingivitis. It is inflammation affecting the supporting structures of the teeth.

What Causes Gum disease?

The primary cause of gum disease is plaque that lives in the mouth. All of us have plaque bacteria that live in our mouths. However, some people, who have a combination of risk factors (smoking, stress, poor oral hygiene) at a particular time in their lives, can develop periodontitis or deep gum disease.
In these individuals the plaque bacteria under the gums begins to grow and multiply as well as stick to the root surfaces of the teeth forming a hard-mineralised layer known as calculus or tartar. This bacteria has the ability to produce its own toxins which attack the supporting structures of the tooth causing bone destruction and soft tissue /gum destruction also known as recession or receding gums.
Once this process starts, the gums, which are naturally attached very firmly to the teeth, detach from the teeth and form gum pockets. Over time the gums can shrink back from the teeth causing recession.
Once the process has started patients need to seek advice from a dentist or periodontist for treatment as early detection and treatment will lead to the best healing and resolution of the gum problems.

What is the difference between periodontitis and gingivitis?

Gingivitis is a superficial disease, which can be completely reversed and treated leaving the patients healthy and back to their normal gum health following treatment. Periodontitis is a deeper disease which affects the bone around the tooth weakening the tooth support. Although it can be treated the bone loss cannot always be rebuilt.

What are the signs and symptoms of gum diseases?

Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating hard food
Blood stains on your pillow after sleeping
Gums that are receding or shrinking away from the teeth sometimes known as ‘getting long in the tooth’
Red, swollen or tender gums or other aches and pains in your mouth
Itching sensation from the gums
Changes in tooth position
Pus between your gums and teeth
Bad breath or bad taste
A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
A change in the fit of partial dentures.

Who does Gum Disease affect?

Most people suffer from some degree of gingivitis in their lives but in some people this progresses into a destructive periodontitis. To increase the chance of developing periodontitis, certain risk factors need to be present. These risk factors include:
Poor Oral hygiene
Immune suppression
Heavily restored dentition (lots of fillings and crowns)
Genetic factors (gum diseases tend to run in families)