Cosmetic Dentistry FAQs: Gum (Periodontal) treatment
What is gum disease?
Gum disease describes swelling, soreness or infection of the tissues supporting the teeth. There are two main forms of this namely: gingivitis and periodontal disease. Gingivitis means inflammation of the gums. This is when the gums around the teeth become very red and swollen. Often the swollen gums bleed when they are brushed during cleaning. Long-standing gingivitis can turn into periodontal disease
What is periodontal disease?
There are a number of types of periodontal disease and they all affect the tissues supporting the teeth. As the disease gets worse the bone anchoring the teeth in the jaw is lost, making the teeth loose. If this is not treated, the teeth may eventually fall out. In fact, more teeth are lost through periodontal disease than through tooth decay. In fact gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults.
What is the cause of gum disease?
All gum disease is caused by plaque. Plaque is a film of bacteria which forms on the surface of the teeth and gums every day. Many of the bacteria in plaque are completely harmless, but there are some that have been shown to be the main cause of gum disease. To prevent and treat it, you need to make sure you remove all the plaque from your teeth every day, which is done by brushing and flossing.
How will smoking affect my gums and teeth?
Smoking can make gum disease worse. Patients who smoke are more likely to produce bacterial plaque, which leads to gum disease. The gums are affected because smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream so infected gums fail to heal. People who smoke have more dental plaque and gum disease progresses more rapidly than in non-smokers.
What happens if gum disease is not treated?
Gum disease progresses painlessly on the whole so that you don’t notice the damage it is doing. However, the bacteria are sometimes more active and this makes your gums sore. This can lead to gum abscesses, and pus may ooze from around the teeth. Over a number of years, the bone supporting the teeth can be lost. If the disease is left untreated for a long time, treatment can become more difficult.
How do I know if I have gum disease?
The first sign is blood on the toothbrush or in the rinsing water when you clean your teeth. Your gums may also bleed whilst eating, leaving a bad taste in your mouth and your breath may become unpleasant.
What do I do if I think I have gum disease?
The first thing to do is visit your dentist for a thorough check-up of your teeth and gums. The dentist can measure the ‘cuff’ of gum around each tooth to see if there is any sign that periodontal disease has started. X-rays may also be needed to see the amount of bone that has been lost. This assessment is very important, so that the correct treatment can be prescribed for you.
What treatments are needed?
We will clean your teeth thoroughly to remove the scale. You’ll also be shown how to remove plaque successfully yourself, cleaning all surfaces of your teeth thoroughly and effectively. This may take a number of sessions with the dentist or hygienist.
What else may be needed?
Once your teeth are clean, your dentist may decide to carry out further cleaning of the roots of the teeth, to make sure that the last pockets of bacteria are removed. This is known as root planing. Our hygienists carry out an intensive course of treatment if the periodontal disease is advanced. They may also choose to place an antibiotic gel in to the gum pockets which we have found is very helpful in treating periodontal disease.
Once I have had periodontal disease, can I get it again?
Periodontal diseases are never cured but can be controlled as long as you keep up the home care you have been taught. Any further loss of bone will be very slow and it may stop altogether. However, you must make sure you remove plaque every day and go for regular check-ups by the dentist and hygienist.
There is increasing evidence linking gum disease to other more serious illnesses particularly heart disease and more recently dementia and related illnesses. It is important to note that more research needs to be carried out in this field, however, please don't assume that gum disease ONLY affects teeth & gums!