Gum Disease: Everything you need to know

Gum Disease – The short of it:

Healthy gums are pink, firm, and don’t bleed when brushed.

If you suffer from some or all of these symptoms then chances are you have gum disease:

  • inflamed/swollen/puffy gums
  • redness of gums
  • soreness of gums
  • bleeding gums when brushing or flossing
  • bad breath
  • bad or bitter taste in the mouth
  • loose teeth

Is gum disease something worth worrying about? Yes – gum disease is most definitely something to be concerned with.

Are there different types of gum disease? Not types as such, but stages/levels of seriousness, yes. The early stage of gum disease is called Gingivitis, which is curable, but if not treated this can progress to Periodontitis, which is incurable (but treatable and controllable).

What causes gum disease? Technically speaking – plaque build up. Behaviourally speaking – poor dental hygiene practices.

What’s the worst that can happen? Infections, loss of teeth, diabetes, premature birth, heart disease, and other chronic health problems.

Will gum disease disappear naturally? No – gum disease will not go away on its own.

Can you prevent / cure gum disease? Most definitely.

Gum Disease – The long of it:

There are a number of myths around gum disease with one of the main being that it’s a rare and not worth worrying about. Gum disease is one of the most common oral health concerns facing adults today. In fact, approximately half of adults over the age of 30 currently suffer from gum disease. Understanding how commonly gum disease occurs is an important step in the prevention process.


Gum disease in the early stages is known as gingivitis. It is caused by a build up of plaque on your teeth and gums. Plaque, as described by South Australia Health, is a sticky colourless film of bacteria that builds up on teeth, mainly near the gum line and between the teeth where it’s difficult to clean. Plaque begins to build up as soon as 4 hours after brushing. If plaque is not brushed off, the bacteria combines with food to produce acids. This acid starts the decay process and irritates gums. It is easy to treat this condition as the swelling is superficial and has not gone deeper into gums or tooth bones. However when gingivitis is left untreated it can turn into Periodontitis.


Gingivitis when left untreated can develop into periodontitis. It is a serious condition that affects one in three adults and more than 50 per cent of Australians over the age of 65. If plaque on the gums settles down, over time it will solidify into a crust called calculus or tartar (which can only be removed by a dental health professional). Once the tartar develops, it causes the gums to pull away from the tooth and form openings/pockets which can build up with bacteria. The build up of bacteria in these pockets can lead to infection and potential bone loss – meaning your teeth can become loose and require extraction.  Beyond this there are a number of other related health concerns such as diabetes, premature birth, heart disease, and other chronic health problems.

Whilst periodontitis is incurable and requires treatment from a dental professional to remove plaque, and possibly conduct surgery or introduce antibiotic regimes, researchers at the Oral Health CRC at the University of Melbourne are confident that they have developed a vaccine that could signal the end of periodontitis.

How to prevent and treat gum disease?

Sometimes you may not be able to see a dentist right away, so it’s very important to do what you can in the interim and address the problem at home. If you think you may be suffering from gum disease there are several actions you can take to find relief and prevent escalation of the condition.

Brush your teeth: Brushing your teeth is the number one preventative technique against gum disease. It interrupts the cycle of bacteria multiplying or sitting in the mouth for too long. You should be brushing your teeth morning and night for at least two minutes. There are a couple of techniques to ensure your teeth and gums get the best clean.

Floss your teeth: Nearly 40% of Aussies never floss or clean between their teeth and up to 70% don’t floss every day. Flossing is imperative in removing bacteria that your toothbrush can’t and it isn’t nearly as hard as you think it is – the easy way to floss.

Use mouthwash: After brushing and flossing use a mouthwash that not just freshens breath but also kills any remaining bacteria (Look for the Australian Dental Association’s seal of approval.) Once you’ve got the right mouthwash you also have to ensure you use it correctly.

Further lifestyle choices:

Smoking and Drinking: Limiting the amount you smoke and drink (alcohol) can result in a lower risk of oral cancers and gum problems. Drinking alcohol can throw off the balance of good and bacteria in the mouth and raise your risk for a variety of diseases, according to research.

Drink water: It is calorie free and contains fluoride, which is one of the easiest and most beneficial ways to help prevent tooth decay.

Avoid Sugar:  Bacteria loves sugar and causes as much damage to the mouth as it does the liver, eyes, and brain. Avoid lollies and focus on vegetables, fruit, whole grains and meat.

Chewing Gum: Studies have shown that chewing sugar-free (crucial qualifier) gum after eating can increase the saliva production which can help neutralise and wash away some of the acids that are produced when food is broken down by the bacteria in plaque on teeth.

Going for a check up: Don’t just visit a dentist when something is already wrong. Ideally you should be visiting the dentist for a general check up and clean at least once a year, that way if anything is wrong with you can commence treatment sooner rather than later.

If you suffer from any of the above symptoms that won’t go away then it’s time to take action and look after your teeth. Contact Morrin Dental today to set up an appointment.

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