Gum Disease

The two main types of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the milder form of gum disease and affects up to 90% of the population. Periodontitis is the advanced form of gum disease and affects 10% of the population. In general gum disease is the 6th most prevalent disease in the world and is closely linked to general wellbeing.

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums due to the build-up of soft germs known as plaque. It can cause bleeding of the gums when brushing as well as bad breath.

Periodontitis is an advanced form of gum disease that can affect either all or just a few of your teeth. It is an infection of the gums resulting in bone being lost around your teeth. This can lead to mobile teeth and ultimately tooth loss.

What causes gum disease?

The primary cause of gingivitis and periodontitis is the build-up of soft germs known as plaque. This is why gum disease is regarded as an infection as for it to occur germs (bacteria) must be present. For those who suffer with periodontitis their immune system reacts to the germs inducing a destructive inflammatory response. It is this response that results in bone being lost around teeth.

Some people through family history are genetically predisposed to suffering periodontitis. This is why some people who have exceptional oral hygiene and very little plaque still suffer from periodontitis.

Those who smoke or have a recent history of smoking are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from periodontitis. Even having 1 to 4 cigarettes a day increases your risk to advanced gum disease by 50%. It is also well known that those who smoke are less able to heal following any treatment.

Other factors can make people at risk such as obesity, poor diet, lack of exercise, increasing age, certain medications, hormone changes, stress, grinding and certain systemic conditions such as diabetes and immunosuppression.

What are the effects of gum disease?

Gum disease is known as the silent disease because for many it goes unnoticed. The first sign of gum disease is bleeding gums when brushing. When gum disease becomes advanced it can lead to gum recession, sensitivity, teeth appearing longer, gaps between teeth, drifting teeth, abscesses and mobile teeth. Ultimately it can lead to tooth loss.

For those who suffer from advanced gum disease it is a lifetime condition as you can have periods of stability followed by periods of active disease. Many people are not aware of having gum disease and for some they have no symptoms for many years until eventually they start noticing the symptoms above. Please follow the link for information about how gum disease can impact upon someone’s life (

Can gum disease effect my general health?

Gum health is important for your smile, comfort, confidence and quality of life. A great deal of research has looked into the affects of gum disease on your general health. The evidence at the moment suggests that there may be a link with certain systemic conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Please follow this link for more information

There is evidence that over a lifetime gum disease increases the risk of heart disease making you more susceptible to having a heart attack or stroke. There is evidence that having healthy gums in diabetic patients helps stabilises sugar levels and reduces the complications of having diabetes. We do know however that diabetics who have unstable sugar levels are at risk to having active gum disease.

Evidence is emerging that gum disease can impact upon pregnancy outcomes, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease, cognitive decline and osteoporosis. The evidence in this area is still weak however.

How do you prevent gum disease?

The best way to prevent gum disease is to have an effective oral hygiene regime. This involves brushing at least twice a day and cleaning between your teeth daily. If your gums bleed this is a sign you are not cleaning effectively.

Top tips:

  • We advise that you clean all tooth surfaces with a small, soft /medium headed toothbrush either manual or electric. The products that we recommend are Oral B and Phillips (highlight these with the link to their websites)
  • The most important area to keep clean is where your teeth meet your gums.
  • The best tools for cleaning between teeth are floss / tape and interdental brushes. The interdental brushes we advise are Tepes / Mini vision / Peri vision.
  • There is evidence that shows having healthy gums is closely related to having a healthy lifestyle. Things such as having a balanced diet, regular exercise and not being stressed are closely linked to having healthy gums.

Brushing, Flossing and Tepes Technique

To help prevent disease we advise that you see your hygienist regularly to have your teeth and gums cleaned. Depending on your needs we advise that you see your hygienist every 3 to 6 months.

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