Gum Disease
Gum Disease

What is gum disease?

Gum Disease is a term to describe a range of conditions affecting the gums and supporting tissues of the teeth. The correct term is periodontal disease.

The most common types of periodontal disease are:

  • Gingivitis – surface inflammation confined to the top layer of the gums, usually caused by plaque buildup from poor brushing or flossing.
  • Periodontitis – a deeper inflammation of the gums and other supporting tissues of the teeth, including the bone and periodontal ligament.

What causes periodontitis?

This is usually the result of gingivitis that has not been appropriately treated, leading to the buildup of plaque or calculus (tartar) below the gumline, where it is ‘out of sight, out of mind’. Though the cause is plaque or tartar settling into a “pocket” around our teeth, gum disease is often severely accelerated by smoking, diabetes and immune system problems, a family history of gum disease and “loose teeth”, and hormonal changes such as pregnancy.

If periodontitis is allowed to progress and is not sufficiently treated, it can lead to the supporting bone of the teeth being “eaten away”. This leads to gradual loosening and potential loss of teeth.

We also know that untreated gum disease may have detrimental effects on our general health, as periodontitis has been linked with a higher incidence of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and for female patients considering pregnancy, low birth weight or premature births.

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Wouldn’t I know if I have gum disease? Wouldn’t my gums hurt?

Unfortunately, we find that many patients who seek our care suffer from periodontitis which they are not aware of, even patients who have regularly been to dentists in the past.

The reason for this is that gum disease is usually completely painless, and a patient may not be aware of how serious the problem is until it is too late, or until the teeth either become loose and acutely infected, or need removal.

It is important that a dentist or dental hygienist provides ample time and attention to detail when providing thorough scaling and polishing, not just a quick “in-and-out” appointment. That is why we have qualified dental hygienists look after your gum health and cleaning in most cases, providing optimal time and care under the direction of our dentists.

Gum disease tends to progress much faster or develop regularly in patients who are smokers, those with diabetes, or those undergoing hormonal changes including pregnancy.

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