What is gum disease and periodontitis?

Periodontitis, also referred to as gum disease, is a potentially serious gum infection which can destroy bones that support the teeth, leading to loose teeth or tooth loss.

The condition is preventable, because it is typically caused by poor oral hygiene. Brushing your teeth twice a day can help to prevent gum disease and periodontitis, and having regular dental check ups is also effective in preventing, identifying and treating gum disease when necessary.

What are the symptoms of gum disease?

When your teeth are healthy, they usually appear pink, are firm, and fit tightly around your teeth. If you have gum disease, signs you may encounter include; bright red or dark red gums, or gums with a purple tinge; swollen gums; gums which bleed easily; tender gums; spitting out blood when brushing your teeth; loose teeth; pus between the gums and teeth; bad breath; pain when chewing; and changes in the way that your teeth close together when you bite.

What treatments are available for gum disease?

In diagnosing gum disease, your dentists could; examine your mouth to look for signs, review your medical history, measure the groove between your teeth and gums, or take a dental x-ray.

Treatment for less advanced cases of gum disease is typically focused on cleaning your teeth and gums, and will be carried out by a dentist, dental hygienist or periodontist. This kind of gum disease treatment can involve scaling, which removes bacteria and tartar from the surfaces of the teen and underneath the gums, using dental instruments, an ultrasonic device, or a laser. You may also undergo root planing, which serves to smooth the root surfaces and discourage the build-up of bacteria and tartar. This can negate the inflammation and encourage the healing of the gums.

There are oral and topical antibiotics that can be effective in helping to control bacterial infection. Oral antibiotics can be used to eliminate the bacteria which is causing the infection, while topical antibiotics such as mouth rinses snd gels can help when deep cleaning the spaces between the gums and teeth.

For more advanced cases of gum disease, surgical options can include; soft tissue grafts, flap surgery, guided tissue regeneration and bone grafting. There is also the possibility of tissue-stimulating proteins, a technique that applies a special gel to the diseased tooth root.

What are the differences between gum disease and gingivitis?

Gingivitis, like periodontitis, is a type of periodontal disease. The main difference is that gingivitis is reversible, whereas periodontitis isn’t. This is due to the fact that periodontitis involves the loss of bone.

Gingivitis involves gum inflammation that is caused by an excess of teeth and plaque on the teeth. Because the symptoms aren’t painful, you can have gingivitis and not be aware of it. When symptoms are present, they can include easily bleeding gums, bright red gums, and swollen gums. Gingivitis can progress into periodontitis, which is classed as a more severe type of periodontal disease.

How to prevent gum disease

There are plenty of prevention methods of gum disease which can be incorporated in everyday life. The most important of these is to brush your teeth at least twice a day, ideally every time you have a meal or snack. You should use a soft toothbrush and aim to replace it at least four times a year. Use a mouth rinse to target plaque between the teeth, and try to floss daily. You can supplement your brushing or flossing with an interdental brush or dental pick. Finally, avoid smoking or chewing tobacco.