Understanding gum disease


There are two main types of gum disease:

1. Gingivitis
The main cause of gum disease is poor oral hygiene. When brushing and flossing techniques are not carried out effectively, this allows plaque to build up along the gum line. Plaque contains harmful bacteria resulting in the infection and inflammation of your gingivae or “gums”. This condition is known as gingivitis and nearly all adults suffer from this to some degree. Bleeding on brushing or flossing your teeth is one of the earliest signs of gingivitis.
Plaque left for any length of time will start to harden and form calculus or “tartar” on your teeth. This cannot be removed by tooth brushing alone, requiring specialist scaling by your hygienist or dentist.

At this early stage gum disease is reversible. Regular visits to the hygienist will help you return to and maintain gingival health.

2. Periodontal Disease
Left untreated, gum disease may progress to a more severe condition known as periodontitis.This is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults. Here the bacterial infection progresses to the deeper supporting tissues of the teeth known as the periodontal tissues which includes the bone. As the disease progresses, this bone supporting the teeth is lost. The teeth become loosened, abscesses can form and teeth may eventually be lost.

What can a Dental Hygienist do to help you?

Our hygienists work closely with the dentists and the periodontist within our preventative care programme to:

  • Thoroughly clean your teeth removing plaque, tartar and stains, creating an environment for your gums to return to normal health.
  • Teach good oral hygiene techniques, individually tailored to your particular needs, helping maintain this environment and prevent gum disease and tooth decay. The result is clean teeth and fresher breath.
  • Give dietary advice to prevent tooth decay
  • Maintain your optimal dental health status. Help you keep your teeth for life. With care and cooperation on your part this is very achievable.
  • Educate children as to the importance of good brushing and diet, giving them the very best chance of staying decay free.

What does the Periodontist do?

A Periodontist is a specialist in all aspects of gum disease. The dentist will refer you to see a periodontist if they have detected any signs of progressive gum disease.

A periodontist would:

  • » Give you a thorough examination,taking all necessary xrays and measurements.
  • » Draw up a treatment plan specifically for your requirements with the aim of improving your condition and maintaining your teeth in as healthy a state as possible for as long as possible.
  • » Where necessary, carry out further deep cleaning of the roots of the teeth to ensure the last pockets of bacteria are removed. This is all done using a local anaesthetic to ensure you are as comfortable as possible
  • » Sometimes, it is necessary to access the diseased tissues with a minor oral surgical procedure carried out under local anaesthetic. Where successful, this procedure may lead to longer life of the teeth. Advances in periodontology, allow placement of artificial bone substitutes in suitable cases to gain some of the lost bone.
  • » Monitor and review your progress and draw up a maintenance schedule with the Hygenist to ensure continued periodontal health.

To find out more about periodontology visit:

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