What is Gum Disease?
Gum Disease (also known as periodontal disease, periodontitis or pyorrhoea) is an infection of the underlying supporting structures of the teeth.
Periodontal means “around the tooth”. Periodontal diseases are gum and bone infections caused by the bacteria (germs) in your mouth. These infections destroy the foundation, the gum and bone around your teeth. Periodontal diseases are painless until it is almost too late to save teeth. If left untreated, periodontal disease can cause bad breath and swollen bleeding gums and eventually tooth loss. In fact periodontal diseases are the major reason for adult tooth loss.
What causes it?
Periodontal diseases are bacterial gum infections that destroy the attachment fibres and supporting bone that hold your teeth in your mouth. The main cause of these diseases is bacterial plaque, a sticky, colourless film that constantly forms on your teeth.
If plaque is not removed on a daily basis it can build up on the tooth surface and turn into a hard substance called calculus. Calculus, also known as tartar, is calcified dental plaque and is considered a contributing factor in causing periodontal diseases. When plaque and calculus are not removed the bacteria in plaque produce toxins (or poisons) that can destroy the supporting tissues and bone around the teeth. Your own immune system attacks not only these invading bacteria but also the body’s own tissues, carving deep pockets between the teeth and gums. As the diseases progress, these pockets deepen, more gum tissue and bone are destroyed and the teeth eventually become loose. If periodontal diseases are not treated, the teeth may eventually need to be removed.
Signs of Gum Disease
It is important to note you may have periodontal disease and not experience any of these symptoms. Periodontal disease is silent and chronic, rarely giving an advanced warning that tissue destruction is taking place. That is why it is important to have regular dental checkups.
- Gums bleeding when brushing the teeth
- Red and swollen gums. Tender gums
- Gums pulling away from the teeth, exposing roots and creating recessions
- Pus between teeth and gums. Sudden swellings that are painful to the touch
- Loose teeth, or spaces suddenly appearing between teeth
- Teeth beginning to splay out.
- A change in the way your teeth fit together/a different bite
How is gum disease diagnosed?
During a consultation or routine check up the dentist inspects the colour and firmness of the gums. Teeth are tested for looseness. The bite is checked. At some point, a small measuring instrument a periodontal probe – is gently inserted between the tooth and gum to measure the depth of the pockets. Pockets are spaces between the tooth and gum, the deeper the pocket the worse the problem. This “periodontal” exam should be done at frequent intervals for all adults and children, especially when there is a history of periodontal disease in the immediate family.
X-rays should be taken at appropriate times to evaluate changes in the bone supporting the teeth.
Your Next Step
If you suspect you have gum disease, please feel free to contact us to arrange an appointment where we can examine you and provide you with the respective treatment.