Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums that can progress to affect the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth.
Gum disease is caused by the bacteria in plaque, a sticky, colourless film that constantly forms on your teeth. If not removed through daily brushing and flossing, plaque can build up, and the bacteria infect not only your gums and teeth but eventually the gum tissues and bones that support the teeth. This can cause the teeth to become loose, fall out or need to be removed by a dentist.
There are three stages of gum disease:
Gum disease can occur at any age, but it is most common among adults. Get dental treatment immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms:
The early stages of gum disease can often be reversed with proper oral hygiene habits like brushing and flossing. Good oral health will help keep plaque from building up.
Professional cleaning by your dentist or hygienist is the only way to remove plaque built up and hardened into tartar. Your dentist or hygienist will clean or "scale" your teeth to remove the tartar above and below the gumline. If your condition is more severe, a root planning procedure may be performed to smooth irregularities on the roots of the teeth, making it more difficult for plaque to deposit there.
By scheduling regular check-ups and practising good oral health habits, early-stage gum disease can be treated before leading to a much more serious condition. If your condition is more advanced, further treatment will be required.
Everyone develops plaque, a sticky, colourless film of bacteria and sugars that constantly forms on our teeth. It is the main cause of cavities and gum disease and can harden into tartar if not removed daily.
Prevent plaque build-up with these oral hygiene tips:
Tartar, or calculus, is plaque that has hardened on your teeth. Tartar can also form at and underneath the gumline and can irritate gum tissues. Tartar gives plaque more surface area on which to grow and a much stickier surface to adhere to, which can lead to more serious conditions, such as cavities and gum disease.
Tartar is also a cosmetic problem. Because it is more porous, it absorbs stains easily. Once tartar has formed, only your dentist can remove it, so if you are a tea or coffee drinker or if you smoke, it is especially important to prevent tartar build-up with regular brushing and flossing.
Research shows that there is an increased prevalence of gum disease among diabetics. Emerging research also suggests that the relationship between serious gum disease and diabetes is two-way. Not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to serious gum disease, but it may have the potential to affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes.
If your blood glucose levels are poorly controlled, you will likely develop serious gum disease and lose more teeth than non-diabetics. Like all infections, serious gum disease may be a factor in causing blood sugar to rise and may make diabetes harder to control.
Other oral problems associated with diabetes include thrush, an infection caused by a fungus that grows in the mouth, and dry mouth, which can cause soreness, ulcers, infections and cavities. You can help to minimise dental and oral problems with good diabetic control. Let your dentist know you have diabetes.
Research indicates that chronic gum disease may also contribute to the development of heart disease. It is thought that the bacteria in gum disease enter the bloodstream and attach to the fatty deposits in the heart blood vessels. This condition can cause blood clots and may lead to heart attacks.
Let your dentist know if you have a heart condition or are taking medication so he/she can coordinate any treatment with your doctor.
Hormonal fluctuations or changes that occur during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause may affect the gums and increase a woman's risk of periodontal disease. Any pre-existing periodontal disease can become more severe.
Good oral hygiene results in a mouth that looks and smells healthy. This means:
If your gums hurt or bleed while brushing or flossing, or you are experiencing persistent bad breath, see your dentist. Any of these may indicate a problem.
Daily preventive oral care, including proper brushing and flossing, will help stop problems before they develop and is much less painful — and less expensive — than treating conditions that have been allowed to progress. Good oral hygiene includes:
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This article was last reviewed on
Friday, September 15, 2023
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