Gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in the UK. If left untreated, it causes the gums to recede, exposing the tooth roots. Even at this later stage, there are often very mild symptoms which can get unnoticed. That’s why it’s extremely crucial to have regular visits to a dentist and hygienist as they can spot the condition early on.
Gum disease is caused by the plaque that builds up daily on your teeth. If this sticky substance is not removed, it can turn into hard tartar and start to irritate the gums, leading to redness and soreness. As a reaction to this irritation, the body can start to attack any build-up around the teeth. In some people, their immune system can overreact and start to break down the gum tissue and even the bone that supports the tooth.
The first stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis and this causes gums to become irritated, swollen and to bleed easily. Gingivitis can be treated and cured through removing the plaque and tartar that is causing the gums to become irritated. This can be achieved through good interdental cleaning in addition to brushing as well as regular visits to the hygienist.
If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, which can cause gums to separate from the teeth, creating pockets that are susceptible to infection. Over time, these pockets will deepen, the gums will continue to recede, and eventually teeth can become loose and may have to be removed. Despite the destructive nature of this process, there may only be mild symptoms, even at a late stage.
Periodontitis is a life-time condition, but can be managed by complying to a treatment plan. A trained dentist and hygienist can carry out root surface debridement to remove tartar from the root surface. Local anaesthetic is used for treatment that goes under the gum line.
Symptoms of gum disease
Risk factors for gum disease
There are a number of factors that may increase your likelihood of developing severe gum disease including:
The best way to prevent gum disease is to make sure plaque is removed effectively. This means you need a thorough home care routine with plenty of brushing and flossing, and you should see the hygienist so your teeth can be properly ‘scaled and polished’. You also need to see your dentist regularly so any changes can be detected before they worsen. Other ways you can reduce your risk of developing the disease include giving up smoking, reducing stress and eating a well-balanced diet.
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