Gum disease

What is gum disease?

Gum disease is swelling, soreness or infection of the tissues supporting your teeth. This typically starts with swollen or bleeding gums (gingivitis). If left untreated this may lead to irreversible loss of underlying bone (called periodontal disease or periodontitis). This can cause your teeth to become loose and fall out. More teeth are lost this way than from tooth decay, so it is a common problem.

What causes gum disease?

Gum disease is caused by plaque on your teeth. This makes it important to maintain good oral hygiene, which will help to remove plaque.

How can I tell if I have gum disease?

Most people suffer from gum disease. It usually progesses slowly, and is largely painless. Typical signs include bleeding gums (typically after brushing your teeth), and bad breath.

Can gum disease be treated?

Yes! If caught early enough, most gum disease can be treated. Dentists that specialise in this treatment are called periodontists. At HWA, we have a periodontal team led by specialist periodontists.

At your first appointment, your periodontist will ask you about your general health, well-being and dental history. Medication, family history, stress and smoking are all important risk factors. Your periodontal examination (see our advanced diagnostic tools) will record exact measurements for use as a comparison after treatment . X-rays will be taken of your teeth, to show the extent and pattern of bone loss around each tooth.

Smoking increases the risk of gum disease, makes it harder to identify, and allows it to progress more quickly. Smoking also hinders healing, which can make your periodontal treatment less effective.

What will treatment involve?

The type of treatment depends on your individual condition:

  • Early stage gum disease may only need preventive oral hygiene instruction along with scaling and tooth root cleaning. This can be continued with visits to the hygienist. This is a Non-Surgical Therapy that removes plaque and hard deposits of tartar from the roots of your teeth below the gumline. It is important because the the plaque and rough surfaces of tartar make it easier for bacteria to get a foothold and the resulting bacterial toxins irritate your gums.
  • Moderate to more advanced gum disease may require Surgical Therapy. The goals of this treatment are to remove calculus from deep pockets around your teeth, shrink the pockets, smooth root surfaces and arrange gum tissue into a shape that will be easier to keep clean. This is normally carried out on isolated areas, under local anaesthetic, after your nonsurgical therapy has been completed and the response to treatment assessed. Most patients do not require surgical therapy.

Regardless of the nature of professional treatment, gum disease can only be effectively controlled in the long term if you maintain thorough and effective oral hygiene. Together with ongoing support from your hygienist, you will be certain to maintain good plaque control.

What if I have bone loss?

There are procedures to regenerate bone and supporting tissues that you may have lost through gum disease. They involve the use of bone grafts and / or regenerative membranes. These techniques restore and strengthen the support of your teeth so they can function for longer. This type of surgery is only suitable for certain shapes of bony defects, and will only be suggested to you if it is appropriate. Surgery is usually under local anaesthetic.

Our specialists in periodontics are trained to deal with many varieties of gum disease and can also graft gum at tooth level with severe gum recession (Periodontal Plastic Surgery).

The benefits

  • fresh breath,
  • a renewed confidence in your smile,
  • restored oral health and a new sense of health and well-being,
  • chew your food more easily,
  • enjoy foods you avoided because they were to difficult to eat,
  • keep your own teeth for longer.

Once your treatment is complete, you’ll still need to work hard on a daily basis to maintain your oral health, to prevent recurrence. Your specialist, general dentist and hygienist will work together with you to co-ordinate your ongoing maintenance plan.

Years ago, people accepted tooth loss as part of getting older. Today, with proper care, you can keep your teeth for a lifetime.

What are the alternatives?

The only alternative would be carry on as you are with no treatment. This can result in halitosis, bleeding red gums and your gum disease getting worse. Ultimately your teeth could become painful and loose and you may lose them sooner.