Gum Disease

Gums exhibiting gingivitis

Gums exhibiting gingivitis.

Gingivitis, or gum disease, is a chronic inflammation of the gums. It may not seem like a serious condition but if left untreated it can develop into periodontal disease. This condition can lead to surgery and tooth or bone loss. There are also indications that gum disease may be implicated in diabetes, strokes and heart attacks. Studies show there is a statistically significant correlation between these conditions and gum disease.

What causes gum disease?

The main cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene. Other factors can also contribute and make you more susceptible to gum disease. These include:

  • Drugs (prescribed or recreational)
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Genetics
  • Malnutrition
  • Hormonal changes (at puberty, during pregnancy or at menopause)
  • Other medical conditions

Symptoms of gum disease

Gum disease may or may not be painful. Symptoms include:

  • Red swollen gums
  • Gums which bleed easily
  • Mouth sores
  • Bad breath or an unpleasant taste in the mouth
  • Itching or sensitivity in the gums
  • Receding gums


Happily, early prevention is quite simple. Good oral hygiene practices are key.

  • Brush at least twice daily
  • Don’t over-brush – brush gently for around two minutes
  • Use a soft bristled brush which is gentle on gums
  • Floss after brushing, at least once daily
  • Visit your dentist twice yearly for check-ups and cleaning


If detected early, gum disease is easily treated. In addition to practising good oral hygiene, visit your dentist if you suspect you have gum disease. Your dentist will do a thorough dental clean to remove all tartar and plaque along the gum line. This may be uncomfortable and result in some bleeding. This is normal and should stop within a day or two at most, usually less. Your dentist may use a numbing gel to make the process a little more comfortable. If needed, you may be prescribed a medicated mouthwash to use after brushing. Should a more serious condition develop, you may need to be referred to a periodontist (gum specialist).

Good oral health practices, regular check-ups and a sensible diet should usually treat gingivitis effectively and prevent more serious conditions.

Stages of Periodontal Disease

Periodontal diseases are serious bacterial infections that destroy attachment fibers and supporting bone that hold teeth in the mouth. Approximately 15 % of adults between 21-50 and 30% of adults over 50 have this disease.

Stages of Periodontal Disease.

Stages of Periodontal Disease. (Pictures by American Academy of Periodontology)