Gum disease is an unpleasant but very common occurrence in UK adults. Over half the UK population have some degree of gum disease, also known as gingivitis. Symptoms include bleeding gums, gums that are receding, sore gums and bad breath. If left untreated, it can lead to more severe gum disease known as periodontitis, which has consequences as severe as tooth loss.
Gum disease is caused by severe plaque and tartar build-up, as a result of poor oral hygiene (though there are other causes). The acid produced by the bacteria in your mouth combines with saliva to produce the plaque film on your teeth. Plaque is removed by brushing and flossing after meals, but if it is left it builds up into tartar – tough material containing minerals from saliva. The build up of bacteria on plaque and tartar irritates the gums and leads to soreness, redness and inflammation.
Periodontitis affects the tissue that holds your teeth in place, and occurs if gum disease is left untreated. Gum disease may be common but it is easily prevented. Firstly, regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste and flossing after meals removes plaque easily, and is the most important and effective way to prevent gum disease. Secondly, regular dental checkups allow for both the identification of gum disease and professional teeth cleaning (scaling and polishing). Only dentists or dental hygienists can remove tough tartar build up, so a dental clean along with a check-up every 6 months will reduce your chances of developing gum disease. You have a higher risk of gum disease if you smoke or if you have diabetes, so quitting smoking and taking extra care to practice a good oral hygiene routine is essential.