Young woman at dental consultation

The Ultimate Guide to Gum Disease

Have you ever brushed your teeth and noticed a pink tinge on your toothbrush? It may have made you wonder if you have gum disease. Gum disease is one of the main ways adults lose teeth, so it is important to stay on top of it before it gets worse. Familiarising yourself with gum disease is the first step towards prevention, so to help you maintain optimal mouth health, St John Medical have put together a go-to guide on everything you need to know about gum disease.

What is gum disease?

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is the inflammation and infection of the gum line that can progress to affect the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth. It is caused by an accumulation of plaque, which is a thick and sticky film of bacteria that builds up around teeth and gums. If plaque is not removed, it can harden and turn into tartar (calculus) and additionally, will continue to form on the tartar. Therefore if not treated properly, it can lead to a range of general health issues.

There are three stages of gum disease (from least to most severe):

  1. Gingivitis – The inflammation of the gums, caused by dental plaque build up at the gum line. At this early stage, gum disease can be reversed since the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place are not affected.
  2. Periodontitis – When the gums begin to form a pocket below the gum line, which encourages penetration and growth of plaque below the gum line. At this stage, the supporting bone and fibers that hold the teeth are irreversibly damaged.
  3. Advanced periodontitis – When the fibers and bone of your teeth are being destroyed, which can cause your teeth to shift or loosen. This can affect your bite, how you eat and how you communicate. At this stage, tooth extractions may become necessary to remove further infection.

Are there any signs or symptoms?

Gum Disease can be painless, so it is important to be aware of any of the following symptoms:

  • Gums that easily bleed when brushing or flossing
  • Swollen, red or tender gums
  • Gums that recede or move away from the tooth
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste in mouth
  • Loose teeth
  • A change in the way your teeth come together when biting
  • A change in the fit of partial dentures
  • Visible pus surrounding the teeth and gums
  • Sharp or dull pains when chewing foods
  • Teeth that are overly sensitive to cold or hot temperatures

If you experience any of these warning signs, it is critical that you contact your dentist immediately before the disease worsens.

What risk factors should I look out for?

Sometimes your daily oral health routine can be more than just taking care of your mouth. Gum disease can not only affect your oral health, but your general health as well. In fact, there has been some indication of the association between gum disease and systemic illnesses, such as stroke and diabetes. Some other risk factors of gum disease to look out for include:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Genetics
  • Malocclusion of teeth (more difficult to keep clean)
  • Pregnancy
  • Poor oral hygiene habits
  • Medications (e.g. steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptive)

How can I prevent it?

So what can be done to prevent the onset of gum disease? Making sure you are one step ahead of gum disease by maintaining good oral hygiene at home is a good place to start. Consistent and thorough brushing and flossing at least twice a day are the most effective methods to remove food particles and plaque, preventing gum disease before it has a chance to set in.

Another way to prevent gum disease is to visit your dentist regularly – but don’t wait until you feel pain. Generally, by the time you feel irritation, your gums will already have an infection or be in an advanced stage of gum disease. So avoid this with biannual dental visits for routine cleanings and checkups. And if you do have some form of gum disease, your dentist will recommend an in-office treatment.

What are my treatment options?

If not removed through daily brushing and flossing, plaque turns into tartar, which becomes a rough and retentive surface encouraging further build up of plaque. The plaque bacteria can infect your gums and teeth, and eventually, the gum tissue and bone that support the teeth will be impacted.

Brushing or flossing cannot remove tartar, so a dental professional will need to conduct a dental cleaning to remove it. The first nonsurgical step usually involves a special cleaning called scaling and root planing to remove plaque and tartar deposits on the tooth and root surfaces. This procedure helps gum disease to heal and periodontal pockets to shrink.

At your next visit, your dentist will check the pocket depth to determine the effect of the scaling and root planing. If the periodontal pockets are more than 5mm deep, surgery may be necessary to help prevent tooth loss. Once your periodontal treatment is complete, your dentist will want to see you at regular intervals.

Let St John Medical help

At St John Medical, we offer some of the best gum disease treatment programmes in Perth and wider WA. Our dentists are some of the best in the business, ensuring that you receive the highest level of care and help to prevent any future dental health issues.

So if you suspect you might have an infection in your mouth and require gum infection treatment, don’t wait to let your dental health deteriorate. Remember, prevention is better than cure and we advise everyone to have regular checkups with recognised dental professionals. This will allow you to catch any problems early and for us to perform the necessary periodontal gum treatment before your infection becomes serious and requires major work.

For treatment advice or more information about our available gum disease treatments, contact your nearest St John Medical today.

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