Living with Gum Disease
Posted on: October 31, 2022
4 minute read
If your gums are prone to swelling, bleeding or are pulling back from your teeth, you may have gum disease. This is a common but potentially serious oral disease that not only affects the gums and teeth, but can also impact on your wider health. Got questions? Get in touch.
Having gum disease could also mean you are not eligible for some dental treatments, including dental implants. The good news is that most gum disease can be prevented or successfully treated, depending on how far it has advanced.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease is an infection of the gum tissue caused by bacteria. The two main stages of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Gingivitis is the milder form of gum disease. The gums may feel uncomfortable or bleed when brushed, or you may have no symptoms at all. Gingivitis can usually be treated and prevented with good oral hygiene combined with routine professional dental cleaning.
- Periodontitis is the advanced stage of gum disease that can cause painful, permanent damage to the gums, teeth and bones. The condition needs to be treated by a dentist and managed on an ongoing basis.
Untreated gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss for adults.
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is caused by bacteria that build up on teeth around the gum line in a sticky layer known as plaque. These bacteria may infect or irritate the gums, leading to an inflammation response. If plaque isn’t removed, it can harden into calculus or tartar, which further irritates the gums.
Plaque is more likely to build up on your teeth if you don’t brush and floss correctly or if your diet contains a lot of sugar and carbs that bacteria feed on. You may also be more likely to develop gum disease if you:
- have nutritional deficiencies
- smoke or take illegal drugs
- have certain medical conditions, including diabetes and immune disorders
- are taking certain medications, such as those that cause dry mouth as a side effect
- are going through a hormonal change, such as puberty, pregnancy or menopause
- have a family history of gum disease
What are the signs of gum disease?
In its early stages, gum disease is not always noticeable, but warning signs may include:
- red, sore or tender gums
- inflammation (swelling) of the gum
- bleeding gums when you brush or floss your teeth
You may have more advanced gum disease if you also have:
- bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
- receding gums
- sensitive or painful teeth
- teeth feeling wobbly or falling out
You should make an appointment with your dentist if you notice any of the above symptoms of gum disease. Regular check-ups with a dentist improve the chance of the disease being caught early.
Diagnosing and treating gum disease
Your dentist will spot the signs of gum disease if you visit them with symptoms or when they perform your routine check-up. They will need to take x-rays of your mouth to determine the severity of the disease, assess the condition of your teeth and jaws and develop your treatment plan.
Gum disease treatments depend on how far the disease has advanced. These may be provided by a dentist or hygienist at your local dental clinic or you may be referred to a periodontist who specialises in gum problems.
Mild gum disease
Mild gum disease can usually be reversed and prevented by improving your oral hygiene and lowering your risk factors. This may include:
- Professional cleaning by a hygienist to remove plaque and tartar from teeth surfaces
- Fluoride treatment to prevent further plaque build-up
- Tooth brushing and flossing guidance and other daily care advice
- Quitting smoking or adjusting other lifestyle factors
It’s important to brush your teeth even if your gums are prone to bleeding. We recommend:
- Using a soft-bristled manual toothbrush for better control
- Brushing at a 45 degree angle with bristles pointed toward the gum line
- Brushing in a circular motion using gentle pressure, cleaning along the inside, outside and biting surfaces and around the gum line.
- Brushing for a full two minutes
- Brushing your tongue
- Spitting out excess toothpaste rather than rinsing with water. This helps keep fluoride active for longer
- Flossing gently with a thicker dental tape or water flosser
Advanced gum disease
Moderate gum disease may be effectively treated by a hygienist or general dentist if it’s caught early. Advanced or recurring advanced gum disease may need to be referred to a specialist periodontist.
Non-surgical treatments may include:
- Scaling and root planning to remove bacteria from around tooth roots
- Chlorhexidine mouthwashes
- Antibiotics to help control persistent gum infections
If bacteria have formed pockets inside the gum, minor surgery may be necessary. This may include:
- Flap surgery to clean and disinfect the gum
- Soft tissue grafting, bone grafting or guided tissue regeneration to restore lost bone or gum tissue
Periodontitis cannot always be treated completely, but jaw bone deterioration and gum recession may be slowed down with regular periodontal treatments and good oral hygiene.
Gum disease and related health concerns
Advanced gum disease when left untreated, can lead to complications such as painful abscesses or teeth shifting position or falling out, which can affect diet and nutrition.
Oral diseases can impact on other parts of the body, and having gum disease may also increase your risk of developing other health conditions as bacteria travel through the bloodstream. These can include:
- heart disease
- kidney disease
- respiratory diseases
- rheumatoid arthritis
Pregnant women who have gum disease may also have a slightly higher risk of babies being porn pre-term or underweight.
How does gum disease affect dental implants?
If you’re living with gum disease and thinking about replacing missing or damaged teeth with dental implants, you may be suitable for dental implants after your gums are treated and the condition is under control.
Removing teeth and replacing them with dental implants does not remove gum disease, as the infection can still build up around the gums and bone structure surrounding dental implants (a condition known as peri-implantitis) This can cause dental implants to fail or require surgical removal.
If you want to replace a single tooth, several missing teeth or your full mouth with dental implants and you have diagnosed gum disease, we will recommend periodontal treatment to bring your gums back to health as a priority. This treatment is usually provided by hygienist or general dentist, or even a specialist periodontist.
Your dentist will recommend you also maintain good oral hygiene and quit smoking to improve your chances of dental implant treatment success.
Book a consultation for dental implants in Perth
If you want to know more about dental implants and whether they are a suitable option for you, contact Perth Dental Implant Centre to book a consultation with our experienced dentist Dr David Norcross. We have two locations in Kelmscott and East Victoria Park.