image011Gum disease is the inflammation of gums caused by plaque, a sticky layer of bacteria that accumulates on teeth. Insufficient oral hygiene may lead to plaque hardening up to become calculus, also known as tartar. In the initial stages of gum disease, the gums are often red, puffy, swollen and bleed when brushing. This is called gingivitis, a reversible stage of gum disease. This can usually be stabilised by removing the bacteria build-up and daily interdental cleaning, cleaning in between the teeth. When gingivitis has not been effectively treated, it can progress to a more serious stage of gum disease called periodontitis. During this stage of gum disease, the gums detach from the teeth forming pockets, envelopes of bacteria between the teeth and gums. As a result, the gums may recede, the bone holding the teeth may become loose and teeth can become mobile. Some common signs of advanced gum disease involve pus accumulation between teeth and gums, a bad taste and smell from the oral cavity, drifting, loose teeth and ill-fitting dentures. Periodontal disease is a common cause of tooth loss for many people.

image009At your routine dental check-up and clean your dentist will assess the health of your gums, identifying areas where the gums bleed, have receded or where deep spots (pockets) have formed. Dental radiographs assist the dentist in assessing whether there is adequate bone around the teeth holding them in place. Periodontal disease has been linked to systemic conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, respiratory conditions and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Treatment of gum disease involves removal of plaque and calculus using dental instruments. In some cases, the dentist will require multiple visits to treat different areas of the mouth using local anaesthetic to numb the teeth and gums being treated. If dental fillings are contributing to gum disease, they may require replacement or reshaping. Your dental practitioner will give you clear instructions on how to improve your oral hygiene, including twice daily brushing and meticulous daily interdental cleaning. There are various tools available to clean in between the teeth, including floss, Flossettes and Piksters interdental brushes.

As smoking increases the risk of gum disease and reduces the chances of successful periodontal treatment, quitting will have a substantial influence on treatment outcome. Your dentist will evaluate the results of treatment and if the gums have responded well with good oral hygiene, a plan will be made to maintain and monitor stable gums. It is important the gums are routinely thoroughly assessed as they are the foundation of the teeth. Without healthy gums, teeth can become loose and need to be extracted. Key ways to prevent gum disease include daily brushing and interdental cleaning, routine dental check-ups and routine dental radiographs. So yes, you do need to floss once a day!