Gum (periodontal) disease is a serious and mostly preventable disease, yet in Australia, the condition is on the rise. Moderate or severe gum disease is present in 22.9% of the Australian population, and the statistics get worse with age. Almost 40% of Australians age 55 years older have moderate to severe periodontitis (in 2004 – 2006) compared to 8% of 15 to 34-year-olds.
There are two main stages of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gum disease can be painless, so look carefully for signs of gum disease and ask your dentist to examine your mouth if you have any concerns.
Gingivitis is the early, mild stage of gum disease, and is reversible. It occurs when dental plaque builds up on the teeth, particularly where the gums join the tooth.
Signs and symptoms of gingivitis
Periodontitis is the second and advanced stage of gum disease that can occur when gingivitis is not treated. Periodontitis is not reversible. The gum margin – the area of gum that seals the tooth – weakens and a space is formed between the tooth and gum. The space is called a periodontal pocket. Bacteria become trapped in these pockets, causing more inflammation (swelling and redness), weakening the area. As the condition advances, the bone and certain structures that hold the teeth in place weaken. Eventually, the tooth may start to loosen and even fall out.
Signs and symptoms of periodontitis
Make sure you do the following to keep your gums free from disease:
Certain risk factors increase your chances of developing periodontitis, including:
Your dentist must examine your teeth and gums for signs of gum disease. They may also need to take x-rays. If you contain gum disease early, the condition is easily reversible through professional cleanings and good oral hygiene at home.
If your gum disease has advanced to periodontal disease, the condition cannot be reversed. Instead, you’ll need to control the condition. Your dentist will also help control the disease with professional cleaning treatments. For advanced gum disease, scaling and route planning may be performed to treat the bacteria-filled periodontal pockets. If you have periodontal pockets of more than 5 mm deep (which means you have moderate to severe periodontitis), your dentist may suggest gingival flap surgery performed by a periodontist. This surgery will reduce the periodontal pockets and remove deposits from root surfaces. Additionally, they may provide a bone graft to restore lost bone and prevent your teeth from falling out.