Yes, we all know that one-too-many of our favourite sweets can cause a bit of dental emergency in the long run but over indulgence is not the only cause of dental problems. Gum disease (also known as gingivitis) is estimated to affect up to twenty per cent of the population worldwide. In healthy, wealthy and well developed countries like the UK the figures are even higher (some estimates suggest eighty per cent in the UK). Gum disease can be painful, irritating and lead to longer term dental problems. However, in most cases the solutions are simple and healthy gums mean healthy teeth and many happy hours munching on your favourite foods (healthy ones of course). Not to mention retaining an attractive full set of sparkling pearly white teeth.
Common Causes and Complications
Most cases of gum disease are not serious but can develop complications if not dealt with promptly. Severe cases can lead to the development of a condition known as ‘periodontitis‘ which can cause damage to the supporting tissues around your teeth and, untreated, can lead to spaces opening up between the gums and teeth – eventually causing tooth loss. There are several, more serious, complications that can result from severe gum disease and these include damage to the bone in your jaw (rare and only seen in more extreme cases) or even gangrene. Although both of these complications are extremely rare, dealing with gum problems promptly is the most sensible course of action. The most common cause of gum disease is poor dental hygiene. Bacteria found in plaque (a naturally occurring substance in the saliva) can gradually damage both teeth and gums. Effective and regular brushing should remove plaque (dentists recommend an electric toothbrush as the best way to remove plaque) and you should brush teeth for two to three minutes, twice a day.
Signs and Symptoms
Mild gum disease is very common in the UK and symptoms that many people experience include swelling, redness of the gums and/or bleeding from the gums after brushing. These symptoms are most common in the case of milder gum disease, while more serious cases and developing periodontitis are indicated by further symptoms. These include a bad/metallic taste in the mouth, loosening of the teeth and abscesses forming at the edges of gums. A much rarer form of gum disease may also develop; “Acute Necrotising Ulcerative Gingivitis” (or ANUG for short) is characterised by frequently bleeding gums, mouth ulcers, gums receding around or between the teeth, difficulty in swallowing and excessive saliva. Some people also find that ANUG is accompanied by a general feeling of illness and a high temperature. If you are concerned that you may have developed a more serious form of gum disease you should consult your dentist immediately.
Sub treatments and Prevention
The vast majority of cases of gum disease are relatively mild and are easily treated by improving your dental hygiene. Brushing teeth twice a day, or more, and flossing will both help to remove plaque that contains the bacteria which cause disease. If you have not followed a good dental hygiene you may find that plaque has developed into tartar – a hardened coating on the teeth. A dentist can remove build ups of tartar and by then adopting a good cleaning regime you’ll reduce the risk of further damage from plaque. Ask your dentist to advise you on good cleaning techniques to ensure that no further problems are encountered and also consider arranging regular check-ups with your dentist. In more serious cases of gum disease it’s likely that you’ll need further dental work, in most cases this will not require surgery, but in the most serious this may be necessary; again, your dentist will be able to offer appropriate advice and information.
Forget the Midwife, Call out the Dental Hygienist
You should make an appointment with your dentist or hygienist like the experts at Waterside if you notice any problems with your gums; from mild swelling to bleeding after brushing or developing abscess. In many cases, where gum disease is not serious, there are few if any symptoms and experts recommend a regular appointment with a dental hygienist to ensure that your gums stay healthy and to ensure any problems are dealt with promptly. While gum disease affects most people at some point during their lifetime, prompt treatment and regular check-ups will help to ensure that your teeth and gums remain healthy and strong.
Robert North is a freelance writer specialising in healthcare, fitness and lifestyle. Here he looks at gum disease – an alarmingly common complaint in the UK.