Gum disease is now the most common reason for tooth loss and can affect us all. It is also both preventable and controllable. Knowing the causes, treatments and steps to preventing gum disease will help you protect your oral and overall health.


Signs and symptoms

Gum disease is an infection of the gums, ligaments and bone that support the teeth. Interestingly, people with gum disease do not always have pain and discomfort, so in some cases people are unaware they have it. If you exhibit any of the following symptoms you may have gum disease.

  • Bad breath that won’t go away

  • Red, swollen or puffy gums

  • Tender or bleeding gums

  • Painful chewing or a dull ache

  • Loose teeth

  • Receding gums or longer appearing teeth


Stages of gum disease

There are several stages of gum disease, the first being gingivitis. If plaque is left around the necks of or between the teeth, bacteria present will cause inflammation of the gums. At this stage the infection is confined to the gums, with the bone holding the teeth in remaining intact. If left untreated, the condition may advance and develop into periodontitis, where the body’s immune system reacts to the infection by attacking the ligaments and bone structure supporting the teeth. Unfortunately, some people naturally have a greater risk of this occurring, as their body has a heightened response to the presence of bacteria. At this stage, the process may not be reversed, but it can be controlled to prevent further damage and spreading. If left untreated, the damaging process continues and the end result is loss of teeth.




The primary cause of gum disease is plaque bacteria. Therefore, factors that affect the presence and growth of bacteria play a significant role in disease progression. Professional cleans and good homecare are two important measures you can take to maintain a healthy mouth as they both work toward reducing bacteria levels in the mouth. 


Other risk factors for gum disease include smoking; diabetes; hormonal changes in girls and women; diabetes; medications that lessen the flow of saliva; certain illnesses, such as AIDS, and their medications; defective fillings; and genetic susceptibility. While some of these factors are out of our control, many can be modified to reduce your risk and improve treatment outcomes.


Gum disease and systemic health

Developing gum disease can negatively affect the health of your entire body. Research now shows a clear link between periodontal disease and many medical conditions including: 

  • Cardiovascular disease with increased risk of stroke and heart attack, 

  • Premature and low birth weight babies and 

  • Diabetes. 


Important points to remember:

  • Good oral hygiene is essential

  • Eat a healthy, well balanced diet

  • Be sure to control your sugar intake

  • Your hygienist can support you through smoking cessation.

  • Gum disease is contagious

  • Bad breath is almost always a sign of gum disease

  • Get treatment at the first sign of disease

  • Visit your Dentist and Hygienist regularly.