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What is gum disease?

Gum DiseaseHealth Tips

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Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that hold your teeth in place. It is very common for adults in the UK to have gum disease and it is less common in children. Gum disease causes a person’s gums to become swollen, sore or infected due to their poor oral hygiene routine. This refers to poor brushing and flossing of the gums and teeth on a daily basis.

A poor oral hygiene routine allows plaque (a sticky film of bacteria) to build up on the teeth and harden. The first sign of gum disease is when your gums bleed when you brush or floss  your teeth and you may even have bad breath as a result of this. 

Early stages of gum disease

The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. Gingivitis is a very mild form of gum disease that causes irritation, redness and swelling of the ‘gingiva’ which is part of the gum that is based around your teeth. 

It is vital that once you notice these symptoms, you immediately treat gingivitis and take it seriously when diagnosed. This type of gum disease is still reversible at this stage and can prevent further serious forms of gum disease in the future. To reverse gingivitis it usually takes around 10-14 days however, if your gingivitis is serious it could take longer to treat. 

Treatment of gum disease

To treat this type of gum disease it is vital to get regular and professional cleaning of your teeth from the dentist, or usually a hygienist. It is also important that you brush and floss your teeth and gums often as this will prevent further complications and get rid of any plaque and bacteria in your teeth which in essence, will prevent gingivitis from occurring again. 

In addition, we recommended that you use antibacterial mouthwash at least once or twice a week as it will help reduce the bacteria in your mouth which also reduces the amount of dental plaque that forms. However, if gingivitis is not treated a condition called periodontitis can develop which affects the tissues that support the teeth and holds them in place. 


Peridontitis is a severe type of gum disease that damages the soft tissue and, if left untreated, can lead to tooth loss. If periodontitis is not treated then it can destroy the bone that supports your teeth. Unlike gingivitis which can be reversed periodontitis can’t be reversed, at best, it can only be slowed down. That is why it is vital that you treat gum disease at an early stage before it gets worse and cannot be reversed. 

Periodontal disease is broken down into four separate stages: gingivitis, slight periodontal disease, moderate periodontal disease and advanced periodontal disease. Gum disease is caused by the buildup of plaque on the teeth. 

Plaque and gum disease

Plaque is a sticky substance that contains bacteria. Although some bacteria in plaque are harmless some are harmful for the health of your gums. Therefore, if you do not brush your teeth and remove the plaque from your gums the plaque builds up and irritates your gums which leads to redness, bleeding and soreness. If plaque and tatar are not regularly removed using good daily flossing and  brushing your teeth twice a day for approximately two minutes which is recommended by the NHS as well as regular professional teeth cleanings periodontal disease will occur.

A significant factor that can make periodontal treatment less effective is smoking. In addition, other risk factors that increase the risk of getting gum disease are diabetes, medications that reduce the natural flow of saliva, genetics, hormonal changes and certain illnesses such as AIDS.

Stages of Gum Disease 


Gingivitis is the only stage of periodontal disease that is reversible because it has not had time to attack the bones. At this stage, this type of  gum disease includes having bad breath, swelling and redness of the gums and bleeding when brushing or flossing. However, this stage of gum disease is mostly painless. Excellent oral hygiene routines and regular dental check ups can treat and reverse gingivitis.

Slight periodontal disease is the second stage of periodontal disease. At this stage it is not reversible but it is still manageable. Once the patient has reached stage two, the infection has spread to the bone and begins a bone destroying process. The additional bone loss is caused as the bacteria evolves and becomes more aggressive. Simple oral hygiene will no longer reverse or treat once the patient’s gum disease has reached this stage. The signs of having slight periodontal disease are increased swelling or redness of the gums, bad breath, bleeding during brushing or flossing and probing depths that are between four or five millimetres.

Similar to slight periodontal disease, moderate periodontal disease cannot be reversed. At stage 3 of this gum disease, all of stage two symptoms still occur but probing depths are greater at six to seven millimeters. This allows even more bacteria to attack your bones, blood stream and your immune system. 


The treatment for stage two and stage three periodontal disease consists of scaling and root planing. Scaling and root planing are forms of deep cleaning that remove the deposits of bacteria that are deeply rooted in the gums. If this is left untreated these stages can progress to bone and tooth loss, gum sensitivity, increased bleeding and the shifting of teeth.

Advanced Periodontal Disease

Advanced periodontal disease is the final stage of gum disease and it occurs when the infection deepens even further and the bacteria evolves into disease causing bacteria. There is up to a ninety percent risk to bone loss. Moreover, advanced periodontal disease causes red swollen gums that ooze plus cold sensitivity, further loosening of teeth, painful chewing and severe halitosis. 

To treat advanced periodontal disease it requires the patient to undergo periodontal surgery or periodontal laser therapy in order to clean the deep bacteria filled pockets that have formed. If this is left untreated, stage four periodontal disease leads to gaps between the teeth from fallen loose teeth, gum recession, patients needing dentures and other overall health problems that can be extremely serious.

Treating periodontal disease quickly is important. Booking and scheduling regular dental check ups, practicing good oral hygiene habits can prevent you from suffering from periodontal disease. 

Book an appointment with our dental hygienists now to find out more about how to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible. Find out more about our dental hygiene services.

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Contact us today to find out more about gum disease by contacting one of our practices in Esher, Surrey or Wandsworth, South West London.