Gingivitis means inflammation of the gums, it is something that everyone has experienced. Signs of inflammation include red, swollen and bleeding gums. Periodontitis on the other hand, can include the signs of gingivitis but the main difference is bone loss. Once bone is lost it can never grow back. Gingivitis can be the first sign of periodontal disease.

Possible signs of Periodontal Disease

  • Red, swollen, tender and painful or bleeding gums
  • Gums that have shrunk from the teeth
  • Persistent bad breathA bad taste in the mouth
  • Abscess between teeth and gums
  • Fit of denture has changed
  • Loose teeth, drifting apart of teeth and gaps appearing between teeth

Plaque, which is made up of bacteria, is the reason these problems occur. Calculus or ‘tartar’ is plaque that has been there for a while and has calcified. Tooth brushing only removes plaque and for that reason tartar can only be removed with professional cleaning. If the bacteria is not removed the body will react and in the process bone is dissolved around teeth.

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Periodontitis is considered a more advanced stage of periodontal disease and can cause serious damage to the gums and bone that support teeth in the mouth. When you see a dental hygienist they will measure your gum levels to check for any signs of inflammation and bone loss. Deeper areas around the gums where bone has been lost are referred to as ‘pockets’. The gum may recede as well with this process.

If enough bony support is lost teeth may become loose, fall out or require extraction by a dentist. In some cases periodontitis can cause the loss of many teeth. Certain health conditions and lifestyle factors can increase the risk of periodontal disease. This can include diabetes and smoking.

The purpose of cleans is to treat periodontal disease and try and stabalise the disease. Unfortunately the clean is only one part of the treatment and constant maintenance by the patient is required.  This includes visiting regularly for cleans and good oral hygiene to reduce the amount of bacteria and tartar build-up. 

Cleans are usually recommended every 6 months however, people with more advanced gum disease may be asked to return every 3-4 months until the disease has stabilised. If the disease is too severe a referral to a periodontal specialist called a periodontist may be needed.


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