A recent study carried out from University College London states that over half of all adults in Britain are suffering a dental condition known as Periodontitis also called gum disease. It is most common amongst the elderly. Approximately 67% of people aged over 65 suffer.
In the early stages, gum disease often goes unnoticed because there is little, if any, pain. Gum disease causes bad breath and swollen gums, which bleed on brushing or flossing. If it is left untreated, this can progress to pus-filled cavities, receding gums and loss of tooth support. There are two main stages of gum disease, gingivitis (which is reversible) or periodontitis.
What causes gum disease?
Its caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth from a mixture of food, bacteria and bacterial waste products. If plaque isn’t cleaned off your teeth regularly, your gums will become red, swollen and shiny and they may bleed. This can cause the gums to pull away from your teeth, leaving a little pocket around the tooth. This pocket traps plaque that you can’t reach with your toothbrush and over time the plaque can harden to tartar (calculus). The irritation gradually spreads to the bone structures around your teeth. Gradually, the pockets get deeper and more difficult to clean, and the gum and bone may shrink. This can now be described as the stage of periodontitis. the shrinking gums may expose some of the roots of your teeth, making them wobble and sensitive. If left untreated over a number of years, your teeth may fall out, or need to be taken out by a dentist. Although periodontitis is not reversible, with appropriate treatment the disease can be halted.
There are other factors that can make you more likely to get gum disease, these include, smoking, diabetes and hormonal changes such as pregnancy.
How can i tell if i have gum disease?
You may not be aware that you have gum disease because often there is no pain. There are warning signs that you can look out for, these include;
Gums that bleed during toothbrushing. If this occurs you should carry on brushing as normal, do not avoid the area
Red, swollen tender gums
Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
Persistent bad breath
Pus between the teeth and gums
Loose or separating teeth
A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
A change in the fit of partial dentures
However it is possible to have gum disease without any of these signs.
How does the dentist/hygienist help prevent gum disease?
During a dental examination a dentist examines the gums for periodontal problems. They inspect the colour and firmness of the gums, they also us a small instrument called a periodontal probe which gently measures the depth between your teeth and gums. The more advanced the gum disease the greater the depth of pockets. Depending on the outcome of the examination your dentist will inform you if you have any signs of gum disease and the severity of it.
If the gum disease is still in the early stages where it is still reversible patients maybe advised to undergo a course of thorough periodontal clean and then see and dentist/hygienist every 3 months and be advised to use an electric toothbrush and floss or inter-dental brushes to help minimize the buildup of plaque.
If the examination shows that a patient has periodontitis, patients maybe advised to have infected teeth removed as decayed teeth can weaken bone structures and loosen other healthy teeth, a intensive course of periodontal treatment would be recommended which is carried out over several appointments of the course of a few months. Pocket charting (the depth of pocket between the gums) is recorded and then compared over the course of the treatment to see how the gums are responding to treatment.
If think you have symptoms of gum disease, please speak to a member of our team who will be happy to book you an examination or hygiene appointment.