Gum (Periodontal) Disease
Gum disease is an inflammatory disease affecting the gums and all the supporting structures around our teeth. It starts as a condition called ‘Gingivitis’ (literally inflamed gums), which usually responds well to treatment and is preventable with good daily dental hygiene. The more serious and damaging form of gum disease is called ‘Periodontal Disease’.
Whenever your gums bleed when you brush, there is potential for bugs to be absorbed into your bloodstream. Research over the last few years has shown that the bacteria found in Periodontal Disease, have been implicated with Heart Disease, Stroke and Alzheimer's Disease.
Plaque is a film of tiny food particles and dead cells that collect on your teeth - particularly aroung the gums, between the teeth, and in any grooves or pits on the surface
This is simply uncleaned plaque, that when left undisturbed for long enough, will calcify due to the calcium and phosphates that occur naturally in your saliva. This then becomes a hard deposit attached to you teeth which needs professional scaling to remove. It can be above the gum - where it is visible and easily picks up stains from black tea or coffee, smoking, red wine etc, or below the gum where it is invisible and does much more damage to the gum and bone that supports your teeth
Mild gingivitis is inflammation of the gums, and it occurs when dental plaque is allowed to build up around the gum line. The gums become red, slightly puffy and tend to bleed easily, especially during tooth brushing. Once the plaque and calculus are removed from the area and the teeth and gum lines are kept clean by thorough daily brushing and flossing, the gingivitis will entirely disappear, usually within a week or so.
Periodontal Disease is the progression of the inflammation from the gums into the bone that holds the teeth in their sockets. The inflammation effectively eats the bone away from around the teeth until there's little bone left to hold the teeth in place.
Plaque and tartar start to accumulate under the gums, in areas called pockets. This can allow bacteria to live and grow leading to bad breath, bleeding gums and sometimes affecting other parts of the body. (There have been links found between periodontal disease and both heart disease and low birth weight babies). The pockets are impossible to clean with just a toothbrush or floss, and require regular deep cleanings called ‘scaling’ to remove the plaque and calculus.
Periodontal disease is the number one reason why adults lose their teeth, and yet an individual can have quite advanced periodontal disease without really being aware of it, because it doesn’t usually hurt.
Areas of tooth decay can often be repaired and filled, whereas once the bony support for your teeth is gone, it's a permanent thing: it’s a very difficult thing to grow that bone back.
Other gum conditions
Occasionally other conditions can have an effect on your gums, lips or other oral tissues and should always be checked by a dentist if there for more than a week. Some examples are ulcers from minor injuries or burns, Thrush (a fungal infection) often under dentures, Herpes virus, an abscess from a tooth or gums, chickenpox, uncontrolled diabetes, tumours and potentially dozens of other conditions.