Gum disease is caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth – a tooth coloured sticky substance made up of bacteria. It is usually removed by thorough, effective brushing and flossing but if allowed to build up causes gum irritation, inflammation and boney destruction.
Gingivitis is the early presentation of gum disease. At this stage the problem is totally reversable with no long term permanent damage. Red swollen, inflamed gum tissue that bleeds on brushing resolves with the correct hygiene procedures and techniques. If left untreated, gingivitis progresses to Periodontitis.
Periodontitis is a later more severe stage of gum disease. Here the inflammation that affected the superficial gum progresses to affect the deeper tissues that connect the tooth to the tooth socket and bone. Periodontitis causes a gap to develop between the tooth and the gum (a periodontal pocket) and a gradual loss of bone which holds the tooth in place.
A mild case of early gum disease can usually be successfully treated with good oral hygiene. This includes effective brushing twice a day and flossing at least three times a week. After initial advice and simple therapy from a Dentist or Hygienist this is something the patient does for themselves and “back up” is provided usually by a Hygienist who monitors the disease progression and intervenes with help and further treatment as needed.
Advanced gum disease requires much more active treatment from a Hygienist on a more regular basis. Deep gum pockets make it difficult if not impossible for a patient to clean thoroughly with a toothbrush and floss, but it still remains important in maintaining the conditions that the Hygienist provides. This “deep clean” below the gum line is often known as root planing or curettage and often done under local anaesthetic.
Almost all adults exhibit some degree of gum disease and is the major cause of tooth loss in older age groups.