Gum Disease

Gums play an important role in maintaining the health of your mouth. Yet gum disease is a common issue facing many adults.

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About gum disease

When they are healthy, gums are:

  • firm
  • free from inflammation
  • pink in colour (not red)
  • resistant to bleeding during brushing and flossing

Gum disease causes inflammation of the gums, bones and tissues that surround and support teeth. Gum disease can be hard to recognize in its early stages, as it develops slowly without any real pain.

Both forms of gum disease (gingivitis and periodontitis) can be influenced by several factors, such as:

  • smoking
  • diabetes
  • HIV infections
  • certain medications
  • hormonal changes (pregnancy)

Prevention of gum disease begins at home with regular tooth brushing and flossing. If you think you have any of the signs and symptoms for either disease, see an oral health professional immediately.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the earliest or mildest form of gum disease.

Causes

Gingivitis begins with the build-up of plaque on your teeth. The bacteria in plaque mix with sugar from the foods that you eat to produce acids.

These acids can attack the surfaces of the teeth and gums when plaque isn't fully removed with brushing and flossing.

Gingivitis is largely caused by poor oral hygiene. At this stage, there is some inflammation in the gum tissue.

Symptoms

Symptoms of gingivitis include:

  • pain in the gum area
  • persistent bad breath
  • red and swollen (puffy) gums
  • blood on your toothbrush or floss

Prevention and risks

Plaque is soft and can be removed by cleaning the teeth and gums. If not removed, plaque can harden into tartar.

This can lead to a more serious form of gum disease called periodontal disease (periodontitis). If left untreated, gingivitis will often progress into periodontitis.

Gingivitis can be prevented and/or reversed by maintaining good oral hygiene practices.

Periodontitis

Periodontitis (periodontal disease) affects the bone and gums that support and keep teeth in their place.

Causes

Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory response to dental plaque. It can lead to weakened gums and ultimately tooth loss.

Over time, bone loss occurs, causing pockets (spaces around the teeth, below the gum line) to appear that need professional cleaning. This loss of bone leads to loosening and possible loss of teeth.

Symptoms

The common symptoms of periodontal disease include:

  • loose teeth
  • persistent bad breath
  • bleeding (can be spontaneous)
  • pus or a bad taste from your gums
  • gums that appear to be pulling away from your teeth

Prevention and risks

It is not usually possible to reverse the damage caused by periodontal disease. However, there are ways to prevent it before it occurs. Learn what you can do to maintain good oral health.

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