BDA Good Practice
In a healthy mouth, gums are pink and do not bleed on tooth brushing. They are firm and cannot be easily separated from teeth.
Gum disease is inflammation of the tissues that support teeth and attach them to the jaw. In the early stages the disease only involves soft gum tissue and is called gingivitis. Later, disease may spread to the bone and is called periodontitis.
Nowadays, in the UK gum disease is one of the commonest causes of tooth loss in adults.
In gingivitis, the gums are usually red and swollen, and often bleed during tooth brushing.
As the disease progresses, gums shrink and teeth may loosen as bone underneath is destroyed. Eventually some teeth may fall out or have to be removed by your dentist.
Gum disease is often associated with bad breath or an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
Gum disease is caused by a thin layer of bacteria called plaque which builds up on teeth. These bacteria release poisons which irritate the gums and other supporting tissues, causing inflammation.
Gingivitis is caused by plaque, which forms on teeth near the gum margin.
The plaque which causes periodontitis is different – it builds up in the pockets that form between gums and teeth as the disease gets worse. Some people are more susceptible to gum disease than others.
- Careful brushing and flossing reduces the build up of plaque at the gum margins and between the teeth.
- Regular dental visits supplement your own efforts. Your dentist or hygienist can remove any plaque that has formed above and below the gum line. They can also remove calculus (tartar). This hard deposit provides a good surface for plaque to grow on.