The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare lists periodontal disease (gum disease) as the fifth most common health problem affecting Aussies today. That means it’s not only a leading dental problem, but also one of the most common in the country for our health overall.
Gum disease is a very common infection of the mouth. It is the cause of several oral health problems and in serious cases can cause tooth loss. Many people are unaware they have gum disease often because they are no signs of it, leaving the disease to progress over time.
Understanding how gum disease works, can help you understand why brushing, flossing and six-monthly visits to the dentist are so important to your oral health.
Here are the most frequently asked questions on what this disease is, and how you can avoid it.
Frequently asked questions about gum disease
How gum disease is caused?
Wendouree Dental’s Dr Jeremy Schocroft explains gum disease as a foreign body or a thorn…
“the body reacts to a splinter or thorn. If the splinter isn’t removed the body reacts. This is called a foreign body reaction and is used so the body can defend itself from infection and toxins. Firstly the skin around the splinter becomes raised and red and the blood vessels increase to send protective and killer blood cells (see gingivitis). If the splinter is still not removed the site fills with pus and the splinter is “pushed out”, rejected by the body or “walled off” if the splinter can’t be pushed out.”
Plaque and hard calculus coats a tooth, leaving the entire tooth susceptible to being rejected by the body. This is why brushing and flossing and regular visit to the dentist are recommended.
Tips for managing gum disease
- If blood results from brushing or flossing and is painless this is where you’ll need to clean more thoroughly
- Where you have missed cleaning areas of your teeth and gums, you will develop gum disease.
- If your teeth and gums are sensitive, try brushing slower, not harder
- Desensitizing tooth paste should only be used as your dentist prescribes
- For electric toothbrush use, we recommend using sonic for its gentle use and better results.
- If your gum disease causes you bad breath, please contact your dentist for treatment options
- Maintain your routine six-monthly scale and clean treatments at the dentist to prevent gum disease from progressing.
Professional scale and clean
A routine scale and clean is commonly not painful if you keep to stick to a good oral hygiene regime at home.
Getting a scale and clean at the dentist can sometimes cause temporary sensitivity, due to freshly clean and exposed root surfaces. We recommend that you avoid brushing these sensitive root surfaces and avoid using abrasive tooth paste until it resolves.
Prolonged tooth sensitivity can require an individualised program from your dentist.
Types of gum disease
There are two types of gum infection Gingivitis and Periodontitis.
Gingivitis is present if there is bleeding when you brush or floss and there is no pain. This is where you have missed cleaning certain surfaces causing plaque to build up. Gingivitis can be reversed by adjusting your brushing technique to become more thorough.
The second, more advanced stage of gum disease is known as Periodontitis, which develops when gingivitis goes untreated. Periodontitis causes discharge to exude from the gums and can be accompanied by a slight metallic taste in the mouth, even though there is and no pain. This is where the pockets between the gums and teeth have filled up calculus – a hard sticky plaque that is too difficult to remove with brushing. Periodontitis is not reversible, only manageable.
Should periodontitis be diagnosed, your dentist may refer you to a specialist periodontist for a gum chart to comprehensively assess the disease and create a tailored treatment plan.
Prevention and treatment
The key to resolving or preventing gum disease is to gently clean the area where the gum meets the tooth. The gum chart may indicate pockets too deep to clean and surgery may be recommended.
Gum disease treatment can range from the regular six monthly scale and clean to root planning and surgical cleans that require local anesthetic.
If you would like more information on gum disease or to book an appointment, please contact the Wendouree Dental team on 03 5339 3770.