June 12, 2024

Dental Hygiene

Complete Dental Care

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Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a chronic inflammation of the tissues that surround and support the teeth. It is primarily caused by the accumulation of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth. If not properly managed through good oral hygiene, plaque can harden into tartar, which can only be removed by a dental professional.

Types of Gum Disease

  1. Gingivitis: The mildest form of gum disease, characterised by red, swollen gums that may bleed easily. It is usually reversible with proper oral hygiene and professional treatment.
  2. Periodontitis: A more severe form of gum disease that can occur if gingivitis is left untreated. It results in the destruction of the bone and connective tissue that support the teeth, leading to gum recession and loosening of the teeth, and can potentially lead to tooth loss.

Symptoms of Gum Disease

  • Swollen, tender, or bleeding gums
  • Bad breath(halitosis)
  • Receding gums
  • Formation of deep pockets between teeth and gums
  • Loose or shifting teeth

Impact on General Health

Gum disease can have far-reaching effects beyond oral health. Research has shown that periodontal disease is linked to several systemic conditions including:

  1. Cardiovascular Disease: There is a significant association between gum disease and heart disease. The inflammation caused by periodontal disease may contribute to the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
  2. Diabetes: Gum disease can make it more difficult to control blood sugar levels, and conversely, diabetes can increase the risk and severity of periodontal disease due to impaired immune function and slower healing.
  3. Respiratory Disease: Bacteria from the mouth can be inhaled into the lungs, potentially leading to respiratory infections, pneumonia, or exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
  4. Pregnancy Complications: Pregnant women with gum disease are at a higher risk of pretermbirth and low birth weight. Inflammation and infections in the gums can trigger an immune response that might affect foetal development. Also, pregnancy can make existing gum conditions worse.
  5. Rheumatoid Arthritis: Chronic inflammation associated with periodontal disease has been linked to an increased risk of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition characterised by inflammation of the joints.
  6. Cognitive Impairment: Emerging research suggests a possible connection between periodontal disease and cognitive decline, including Alzheimer's disease, potentially due to chronic inflammation and bacterial invasion.
  7. Kidney disease: Recent research has shown that gum disease is linked to kidney disease due to the products of chronic inflammation in the circulatory system.

Prevention and Management

Preventing gum disease involves maintaining good oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups. Key practices include:

  • Brushing teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
  • Interdental cleaning (cleaning in-between the teeth e.g. using floss orTePe brushes) daily to remove plaque between teeth
  • Avoiding tobacco use
  • Eating a balanced diet to support oral and overall health
  • Visiting the dentist regularly for check-ups and maintenance

Early detection and treatment of gum disease are crucial to prevent its progression and mitigate it's impact on general health. If gum disease is diagnosed, a dentist or periodontist can provide treatments to treat the disease, such as deep cleaning and oral hygiene instruction, or in severe cases, surgery. It is also essential that regular maintenance is carried out to manage the condition and reduce the risk of further progression.

For more information, visit the British Society of Periodontology and Implant Dentistry (BSP)