Gum Disease


The gums or gingiva are part of the periodontium which supports the tooth. Gum disease affects only the gums and may progress to periodontal disease if left untreated involving destruction of bone and underlying structures that support the tooth causing tooth mobility and eventually loss of teeth.

Gum Disease

Gum Disease

Causes of Gum Disease

The main causative agent is plaque; a sticky bacterial biofilm which forms on the surface of teeth everyday. Plaque is a soft deposit which can be removed by brushing. When not removed the plaque accumulates over the surface of the tooth, releases bacterial toxins causing irritation of the gums leading to inflamed, swollen gums, receding gums, gum bleeding and infection. With time, the plaque hardens to form tartar (hard deposit) which cannot be removed by brushing and a visit to the dentist is necessary.

Predisposing factors for gum disease include:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco products
  • Positive family history of gum disease
  • Low immunity ( in case of AIDS, malnutrition, high stress)
Gum Disease

Gum Disease

Symptoms of gum disease

  • Friable gums/ gums that bleed easily
  • Inflamed gums
  • Painful and sore gums
  • Mobile teeth
  • Persistent halitosis
  • Pus discharge from gums

Types of gum disease

Gum disease can be broadly classified into

  • Gingivitis
  • Periodontitis

Gingivitis: The early stage of gum disease is termed as gingivitis and is characterized by gum inflammation and bleeding. Gum pain may rarely be associated with this condition.

Gum disease treatment in this case would include good oral hygiene maintenance and regular visits to the dentist for scaling.

Periodontitis: The advanced stage of gum disease termed as periodontitis occurs when gingivitis is left untreated. Extensive damage occurs around the tooth leading to pocket formation / deep spaces formed between the gum and tooth. Debris and bacteria may accumulate in these pockets causing further deepening of the existing pockets eventually leading to more gum problems such as gum recession and loose teeth. Painful gums may also be a feature.

Various types of periodontitis include aggressive periodontitis, chronic periodontitis and necrotizing periodontal disease.

Gum Disease

Gum Disease

Treatment for gum diseases

Gingivitis can be prevented by using proper brushing techniques, regular brushing and flossing.  Harmful habits should also be stopped. Periodic checkups to the dentist may be necessary.

Gum treatment depends on the progress of gum disease;

  • Removal of soft and hard deposits by the dentist is a common procedure and is called scaling. This is the most common and simple gingivitis treatment.
  • If in case of gum infections, antibiotics may be prescribed.
  • In advanced conditions gum surgery may be required after which oral hygiene maintenance is important.

Recent studies suggest increased risk of myocardial infarction in patients with positive history for gum disease thus as per the saying ‘a stitch in time saves nine’, looking after your gums now may help your heart in the future. For more information please visit the CDC Division of Oral Health.

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