What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease or Periodontitis is a frequently painless condition affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth. It is characterised by swollen or receding and bleeding gums, tooth mobility, occasional abscesses, bad breath and in severe cases can lead to loss of teeth.
Teeth are held in place by bone, the periodontal ligament and the surrounding gingival tissue (gum). There is a small gap between your gums and your teeth that needs to be cleaned regularly in order to remove any food debris and bacteria present. If not, the gums become inflamed, a reversible condition known as Gingivitis. When this is left untreated in susceptible individuals, the body can exhibit an exaggerated response to combat the bacteria, leading to a breakdown of the tooth’s supporting structures, an irreversible condition known as Periodontitis. If the supporting bone continues to dissolve and the condition is not treated, it can eventually lead to loss of teeth.
Who can get gum disease?
Some individuals may be more susceptible to gum disease than others but the main causative factor is poor oral hygiene. Evidence shows that the health of your gums can be closely related to your general or systemic health. Smokers, diabetics with poor glycaemic control or people who are immunocompromised are at greater risk. Similarly, if you have a parent or sibling who has suffered from gum disease, you may also be at risk.
How do I know if I have Gum Disease?
The answer is that you may not realise it early on since the condition is often silent. On rarer occasions, it can also be of an aggressive nature and progress quickly without you realising. This makes regular check-ups with your dentist very important in picking up the condition as early as possible.
If you notice any of the symptoms below, you are advised to contact your dentist for a periodontal check-up:
- Bleeding gums
- Bad breath
- Mobile teeth
- Gaps in between your teeth which were not there in the past
- Teeth changing position/drifting
- Recession of the gums (this is when the gum starts moving away from the tooth)
How do we treat it?
Periodontitis is irreversible and unfortunately any bone which has been dissolved away will not grow back. However the earlier it is detected, the quicker it can be treated and stabilised to ensure no further damage occurs.
Usually your dentist will assess the health of your gums during routine check-ups. If they suspect you may be suffering from gum disease, x-rays may be indicated to look for any bone loss. Treatment usually consists of a course of professional or specialist deep cleaning under local anaesthetic to remove all the tartar and bacterial debris beneath the gums that exacerbate the condition.
Once the root surfaces are clean, gums are measured again 10-12 weeks later to assess the healing response. Resolution of the inflammation depends to a large extent on patients maintaining a good level of oral hygiene at home to prevent re-accumulation of bacteria and tartar. Your clinician will show you effective ways to clean that will be tailored to your individual needs.
Your dentist or periodontist will discuss your options after reviewing the condition. Regular reviews are necessary to ensure you are on the right track with your hygiene and your gums remain stable. Following stabilisation of the disease, you will be placed on a maintenance program to prevent relapse. Lifelong monitoring and maintenance cleaning is strongly advised as susceptible individuals are at risk of relapse during their lifetime.
Mild cases of the disease can be treated by your general dentist, but moderate or severe cases, or cases where initial treatment did not provide the desired results, may warrant referral to a periodontal specialist, a Periodontist.
What is a Periodontist?
Periodontists specialise in the treatment of gum conditions. Unlike a hygienist or a general dentist, a periodontist is a dentist with further specialist training who can diagnose and treat complex cases of gum disease, recession and other diseases of the supporting tissues. Periodontists are also able to provide surgical treatment options which may be indicated in certain situations, such as regenerative procedures aiming at restoring the affected periodontal tissues.
Do I need to see the Periodontist?
Has your dentist informed you that you may be suffering from periodontitis? Have you suffered from periodontitis in the past but haven’t been seen for your maintenance appointments? Are you suffering from unsightly recession? Book an appointment with our Periodontist for a consultation and let us inform you on what we can do for you.
For further information, please do not hesitate to contact us, or book an appointment for a consultation using the form below. Call (0207 637 8484) or email us ([email protected]) for assistance.