Gum Disease and HealthHealthy teeth begin with healthy gums, so if you’re suffering from bleeding, sensitive or swollen gums, bad breath, or teeth that seem to have moved, it may be time to take a closer look at your gums. At The Oral Hygiene Centre and Devonshire Dental Clinic in London we can give you advice on how to prevent gum (periodontal) disease, bleeding gums and dental decay. Regular visits to your dentist and hygienist will ensure that any problems are identified quickly so that you can stop gum disease in its tracks?
If left untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss, but our clinicians will work with you to rectify gum problems and repair any damage to your teeth or jaw that might already have occurred. We may advise you on a long-term treatment plan to ensure you maintain good oral health over the coming years and you’ll receive excellent guidance on how to look after your gums and teeth. We can even provide you with dietary advice and instructions on how best to brush and floss your teeth so that you avoid the build-up of plaque that can cause gum disease. With healthy gums and a fresh mouth you’ll feel on top of the world.
What is gum disease?
Periodontal disease, commonly known as gum disease, is a chronic bacterial infection of the gums and bone supporting the teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults however; because gum disease is usually painless, you may not even know you have it. Although most individuals suffer gum inflammation from time to time, according to research around 10-15% of the population appear to suffer from the more severe forms of the disease, which causes loss of supporting bone. This group of people appears to be at greatest risk of losing teeth through periodontal disease.
What are the causes of gum disease?
The main cause of gum disease is the formation of dental plaque, which is a sticky film on the tooth surface. The bacteria contained in plaque release toxins that can damage the gums. If plaque is allowed to accumulate, it causes inflammation of the surface of the gums which is known as gingivitis. This inflammation will resolve if the plaque is removed through cleaning of the teeth and no permanent damage is done. As the amount of plaque increases it can begin to mineralise and form tartar (calculus). Such hard deposits have a rough surface and allow more plaque to form and cause further damage to the gums. If plaque accumulates for a long time the changes it causes in the gums can lead to loss of the bone support, a condition known as periodontitis.
How do I know if I have gum disease?
The signs and symptoms of periodontal disease are variable but may include reddening and swelling of the gums, gums that bleed on brushing, gums that have pulled away from the teeth together with evidence of loose teeth, a bad taste in the mouth and possibly also bad breath. However, because pain is rarely a symptom until the disease is at an advanced stage, it is possible to you might be unaware of any changes. It is advisable to attend a general dental practitioner regularly so that special assessment techniques to detect changes in the gums, sometimes including X-rays, can be carried out as part of your routine dental examination.
The first stage periodontal treatment is the consultation appointment. It is important for the ultimate success of any treatment that the severity and extent of the disease are established in advance. This is done by carefully measuring the position of the gums and whether or not spaces have developed between the gums and teeth (these spaces are called pockets). The depths of these pockets are registered on a special chart, which gives a permanent record of the level of disease present. As well as recording this chart a consultation also involves the taking of photographs and any necessary X-rays, which show the position and height of the bone supporting the teeth. Once all the information has been collected, a treatment plan can be devised. Whenever possible, various treatment options will be presented and their merits and potential drawbacks discussed. By the end of the consultation you should feel fully informed about your condition and have an understanding of the treatment options available to you, as well as the likelihood of success.
Treatment of gum disease
Possible treatment alternatives will be explained to you at your consultation appointment. This is the best time to ask any questions you may have. Our aim is always to preserve teeth if possible and advisable. The most common form of treatment consists of scaling and root planing. Scaling refers to the professional removal of soft plaque and hard calculus (tartar) from the teeth and around the gum line. It is undertaken using hand instruments (scalers or curettes) and/or sonic/ultrasonic instruments which use high frequency vibrations to help remove these deposits. Root planing is really an extension of scaling, which involves removing deposits from under the gum line. This is usually undertaken once the gum tissues are numbed with a dental anaesthetic, so that the treatment can be performed painlessly. The aim is to provide a clean, smooth, tooth and root surface in order that the gum tissue/attachment has a chance to heal. Scaling and root planing may sometimes be combined with the use of antibiotics to assist in the management of the gum infection. If you have any questions on gum disease please don’t hesitate to contact us.