Periodontal disease (gum disease)
Periodontal disease, more commonly known as gum disease, can be a result of plaque build-up on your teeth. Plaque is a clear film that comes from sugars in your food. If you don't clean it off, it can cause build up and become harder to remove.
In some cases, the symptoms will only be temporary and can be easily fixed. Other cases can become more serious and long-lasting if left untreated, and may eventually lead to the loss of a tooth or teeth.
On this page
- How do you know if you have periodontal disease?
- Types of periodontal disease
- Periodontal disease treatment options
- How to prevent periodontal disease
How do you know if you have periodontal disease?
The difficulty with periodontal disease is that you may not even realise you have it. It can be painless in the early stages, so the best way to tell if you have it is through regular check-ups at the dentist. They’ll be able to spot early signs of disease.
You may be at a higher risk of developing periodontal disease if you smoke, have diabetes or have any type of immune disorder.
Types of periodontal disease
Most dentists recognise two types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis.
The less advanced form of periodontal disease is gingivitis. This is where the plaque irritates the gums to a point where they become swollen, red and shiny. Your gums may even bleed when you brush your teeth.
The more serious type is periodontitis. When gingivitis is left unchecked, the gums may weaken and pull away from the teeth, causing a gap around the tooth known as the “periodontal pocket.” More plaque then becomes trapped in this space, which can’t be reached by toothbrush and is harder to treat. Given time, this trapped plaque hardens and forms tartar. It can affect the root of the tooth, the bone and the fibres that connect them all together. Eventually, this can lead to the loss of the tooth.
Periodontal disease treatment options
Gingivitis is often reversible. Once your dentist spots the symptoms, they will refer you for a professional clean (or do it themselves) to remove the plaque and any tartar. Once this is addressed, twice-daily brushing with a fluoride toothpaste will help the gums recover.
Once gingivitis has progressed to the stage where you have developed periodontal pockets, treatment may need to be more involved. The goal at this point is to stop the disease from progressing in order to save the tooth. With proper brushing and flossing, and appropriate care from your dentist, you should be able to halt the progress of periodontitis. In the worst case scenario, the tooth may loosen and fall out or be extracted by your dentist, and you may need to consider a dental implant or other replacement option.
How to prevent periodontal disease
As with many potential dental problems, you can lessen your risk by maintaining a regular oral hygiene routine. Aim for a healthy diet that's low in sugar and high in nutritional content, avoid smoking, brush and floss twice daily and ensure you go to regular check-ups with your dentist.
Click here to read more about oral hygiene, or head here to find your nearest Bupa-owned dental clinic.