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Gum Disease: What is it, and how to treat it

Written by Luke Whitaker

What comes to mind when you think of a dental problem? You would be forgiven for jumping straight to teeth, and perhaps allowing getting braces or having a filling to overshadow your gums. But gum disease is something which, according to an article in The Guardian, will affect a staggering 47% of the UK population at some point in their 40s, 50s, or later. 

 

Given how many people are, and could yet be impacted by gum disease, our team at Exeter Advanced Dentistry have decided to focus our latest blog on the topic. Let us explore what it is, and how you treat gum disease, so hopefully we can all achieve better oral health. 

 

What is gum disease?

 

Sadly, gum disease is common. Often, too much oral hygiene focus is on the teeth, with gums being neglected. This lack of care leads to swollen, sore, and even infected gums. It can be broken down into two forms of the condition: Gingivitis, and Periodontal Disease. 

 

What is Gingivitis?

 

According to Dr Melissa Grant, Lecturer in Biological Sciences at the University of Birmingham, 90 percent of people in the United Kingdom have some form of gingivitis. But how many of us are actually treating that condition? In fact, how many are aware of this very real dental condition? 

 

But what is gingivitis? By definition, gingivitis is a moderate form of actual gum disease affecting the gum around the base of your teeth which is called your gingiva. It can cause some redness around the area, as well as swelling or inflammation, and irritation which without treatment, can lead to much more serious conditions. Gingivitis is caused by having poor oral hygiene, so ensuring that you have regular check ups with your local dentist, as well as flossing and brushing twice a day can help prevent and even reverse gingivitis.  

 

What is Periodontal Disease?

 

If you are familiar with gingivitis, you may have heard of periodontal disease, which is another term for gum disease. While gingivitis is focussed more on gum inflammation, periodontal disease – or periodontitis – can be identified when gum and bone pull away from the tooth and begin to form pockets, which is where the infection begins.

 

What causes gum disease?

 

The cause of gum disease is a buildup of plaque on your teeth. Your mouth does contain over six billion bacteria, across 700 different species, according to Heathline. Plaque must be removed from your teeth, done so by brushing. If not, it builds up and forms Tartar which in itself will cause irritation, swelling, bleeding, and soreness. If plaque turns into tartar, you will no longer be able to remove it yourself and instead, will have to seek the services of your local dentist. So, aside from plaque build up, what else causes gum disease? 

 

Smoking

 

Smoking has so many health implications, not to mention the fact that it can actually disrupt the normal function of your gum tissue cells. This leads to your mouth becoming more susceptible to gum disease, as well as other conditions. 

 

Prescription Medication

 

Saliva is vital for a healthy mouth, however, the side effects of prescription medication can include a reduction of saliva production and flow. This leads to bacteria being encouraged to spread more readily through a dry mouth. 

 

Nutrition

 

You’re told to eat your fruit and vegetables as a kid for a reason. It is vital to get the right nutrients into your body and in the case of your gums, especially vitamin C. Ensure that your body is getting enough vitamin C through your diet, or through supplements, as well as drinking plenty of water and maintaining a healthy balanced diet. 

 

Other causes of gum disease include: 

 

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Genetics
  • Crooked teeth
  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes

 

What are the symptoms of gum disease?

 

Gum disease is something which can more often than not go unnoticed, certainly untreated. The severity of its symptoms can range dramatically. Lesser symptoms, ones which are not so obvious, can develop into gingivitis and then onto periodontitis, which is when things become much more serious and harder to manage. For instance, typical gum disease symptoms include: 

 

  • Pain and or tenderness in your gums, but also coming from your teeth
  • Bleeding when you brush or floss your teeth
  • Loose teeth caused from gums pulling away from your teeth
  • Swelling/swollen gums, which can also be distinguished by a red or even purple appearance
  • Bad breath can be caused by gum disease

 

If left untreated, you do risk getting a serious oral infection. These often originate in the space left between loose teeth. 

 

What is the treatment for gum disease? 

 

Treating gum disease, and ensuring that you do not develop gum disease can simply boil down to practising good oral hygiene. However, some will need to balance this with additional dental treatments.

 

Oral Hygiene 

 

Whether you have a bamboo, electric, or plastic toothbrush, you should be brushing your teeth twice a day for around two minutes at a time to treat gum disease. We recommend brushing before you go to bed at night, then again at one stage during the day. There is, however, a debate as to whether you should brush before or after breakfast. The argument being that brushing before your first meal allows you to remove plaque which has accumulated while you sleep; this plaque needs food to produce more bacteria and more acid byproducts. This can lead to damages to your enamel and further issues. However you choose to do it, just remember to brush twice a day. Flossing is another way in which you can tackle gum disease, as well as regular visits to your dentist. 

 

Dental Treatments 

 

If you notice the symptoms of gum disease and need expert help, then you should book an appointment with Exeter Advanced Dentistry. Your gum disease treatment will predominantly be carried out by our own qualified and experienced dental hygienist, who will help advise and educate you on the best way to achieve good oral health. 

 

When you have booked in with us, the hygienist will take a look at your teeth and the surrounding gum tissue. Treatment from Exeter Advanced Dentistry includes professional cleaning, which helps to remove any traces of bacteria and calculus, carried out in the most comfortable and gentle way possible for you. Following that, you may benefit from scheduling regular maintenance appointments to ensure that bacteria does not re-form. Even if you do not choose to have follow up appointments, our hygienist will ensure that they offer you the best advice for brushing and flossing to properly educate you on maintaining a healthy mouth.

 

When should you get gum disease treatment?

 

If you notice any symptoms of gum disease, it is always best to address the issue as soon as possible to ensure that things do not get worse. However, if you have chosen to visit the team at Exeter Advanced Dentistry to discuss how to treat gum disease, we will work to create an appropriate treatment plan especially for you and your needs. 

 

We advise you to be aware of any changes to your diet or lifestyle which may lead to gum disease. These, as mentioned in the symptom section include smoking, an unhealthy diet, increased stress, or even a weakened immune system. If you are aware of any of these factors, it is best to pay extra attention to your dental routine and if necessary, when your next appointment is. 

 

You can treat gum disease, and you can certainly get the best dental care for your condition should you require it. For any advice or guidance, speak to us today to see how we can help you. 

Photo Credit: Yusuf Belek

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