Many people with gum disease are unaware of their condition, putting bad breath or bleeding gums down to the food they eat or brushing too hard.
Gum disease is one of the most prevalent health conditions with an estimated 20% of people having the more severe forms of the disease and up to 80% of people with some degree of gum disease during their life.
Gingivitis is when you have bleeding gums without destruction of the tooth supporting tissues. Gingivitis is reversible.
Periodontitis is the further progression of gingivitis resulting in the loss of the supporting bone around teeth. Once destroyed we generally cannot get the lost supporting bone back. Periodontitis is therefore not considered reversible, but treatment can stop further progression. The condition is a major cause of adult tooth loss.
Although periodontitis can occur at any age the most severe cases are seen in people under 40 years of age. However, the progression of the disease over time means that most people do not see the disease until they are over 40.
Plaque bacteria causes gingivitis and periodontitis. Plaque is the clear sticky film that forms on the surface of your teeth, especially at the gum-line: it is made up of multiple different bacterial species. People who develop periodontitis tend to have certain types of bacteria in their mouths that can cause the disease and low natural resistance to them. The evidence indicates these bacteria are acquired from the close environment (most likely parents) after birth1. The amount of natural defence to these bacteria depends on an individual's immune response to them. Treatment cannot eliminate these bacteria but reduces their levels to such a degree as to not allow them to cause a problem. This is also a very important reason for patients with periodontitis to have regular dental visits to keep them under control.
Treatment of gingivitis and periodontitis is best achieved with early intervention along with a maintenance program to keep control of the plaque bacteria. Brushing twice a day with a soft bristled electric toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and cleaning between the teeth with inter proximal brushes or floss is considered essential. Regular maintenance checkups and professional cleaning appointments every three to six months will significantly reduce the recurrence of gum disease.
1 - Monteiro et al. Parents with periodontitis impact the subgingival colonization of their offspring. Nature Scientific Reports 11, 1357 2021.
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