Although gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) is a common condition, people are often unaware they have it, as they may have few, if any, symptoms. If left untreated, this disease can adversely affect gum tissue and the bone that holds teeth in place. If detected during its early stages, gum disease can be reversed but if allowed to progress it can only be managed.
Gum disease is caused by the plaque that builds up daily on your teeth. If this sticky substance is not removed, it can turn into hard tartar and start to irritate the gums, leading to redness and soreness. As a reaction to this irritation, the body can start to attack any build-up around the teeth. In some people, their immune system can overreact and start to break down the gum tissue and even the bone that supports the tooth.
The stages of gum disease
The first stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis and this causes gums to become irritated, swollen and to bleed easily. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, which can cause gums to separate from the teeth, creating pockets that are susceptible to infection. Over time, these pockets will deepen, the gums will continue to recede, and eventually teeth can become loose and may have to be removed. Despite the destructive nature of this process, there may only be mild symptoms, even at a late stage.
Symptoms of gum disease
- Bleeding after brushing
- Receding gums
- Bad breath
- Bright red or purplish gums
- Changes in the way your teeth fit together
Risk factors for gum disease
There are a number of factors that may increase your likelihood of developing severe gum disease including:
- A family history
- Hormonal changes
- Poor oral hygiene
Preventing gum disease
The best way to prevent gum disease is to make sure plaque is removed effectively. This means you need a thorough home care routine with plenty of brushing and flossing, and you should see the hygienist so your teeth can be properly ‘scaled and polished’. You also need to see your dentist regularly so any changes can be detected before they worsen. Other ways you can reduce your risk of developing the disease include giving up smoking, reducing stress and eating a well-balanced diet.