Information about gum disease and periodontics

Gum disease affects up to 80% of the adult population and results in the loss of the bone that supports your teeth. Left untreated, it can result in the loss of your teeth. Thankfully, gum disease is completely treatable when detected and corrected at an early stage. Treatment at later stages of the disease process is still possible; however, it results in unnecessary compromises.

It is important to remember that in England and Wales the desire to keep one’s teeth and smile is a relatively modern desire. Looking back just one generation reveals that tooth loss was the normal progression in life. Most people will recall that their grandparents invariably wore dentures.

The causes of gum disease remain the same; however, we now understand more about them. This knowledge allows better treatment for the disease, enabling you to keep your teeth for your whole life. Dr Ahmed will help you to understand gum disease in simple terms and will give you valuable advice on the detection of gum disease at home.

The early signs of gum disease

It is important to note that healthy gums demonstrate a low level of inflammation. As part of the ageing process, after your mid teenage years, 0.1mm of bone is lost annually. This amounts to 1mm over a 10-year period, so by the age of 70 you would have naturally lost approximately 5mm of bone. During episodes of active gum disease 5mm of bone can be lost annually. On average the teeth are covered by 20mm of bone. This indicates the importance of treating gum disease with urgency.

The earliest sign of gum disease is redness in the gums, as healthy gums are pink. Bleeding from the gums is another sign that the disease is present; bleeding can normally be seen during brushing but is far more evident on flossing. Bad breath is almost always a sign of gum disease.

Pain is almost never associated with early gum disease and Dr Ahmed feels that it is due to the lack of pain that patients do not seek care and help. It is important to realise that during a routine check-up and clean with your dentist, healthy gums do not hurt. If pain is experienced this is sure sign that there is a gum problem requiring further attention.

The gum M.O.T.

Dr Ahmed feels that it is of great value to understand what the professional examination of gums consists of and what your dentist is looking for.

During the examination, firstly, the dentist will look at the quantity of plaque bacteria detectable where the tooth meets the gum. Then the appearance of the gum tissue will be assessed and compared to the appearance of healthy gum tissue. Healthy gum tissue is best described as firm, pink, stippled (like orange peel), and non-shiny; it will not bleed when touched. Your dentist will then use a measuring device to determine how deeply the bacteria has penetrated between the tooth and the gum. This will also indicate how much damaged or infected tissue is present around your teeth. Bacteria on healthy gums may penetrate between 1mm and 3mm. Your dentist will then check for bleeding from the gums and, finally, examine X-ray images to establish the visible bone levels around your teeth.

It is also important to understand that when your gums are healthy, you should feel no pain during the examination or the cleaning process. Mild discomfort can be an individual’s reaction to the procedure. However, any significant discomfort can only be attributed to an underling problem. Any diagnosed problems are best treated urgently.

Gum disease links

To find out more about Periodontics visit the links below:

General Dental Council
www.gdc-uk.org

British Dental Association
www.bda-dentistry.org.uk

American Academy of Periodontics
www.perio.org

British Society of Periodontics
www.bsperio.org.uk

Eueropean Federation of Periodontology
www.efp.net