Periodontitis (Gum Disease)


Periodontitis is the dental term for serious gum inflammation, which is usually the result of poor oral hygiene and long-term neglect. Failing to maintain good oral hygiene practices can cause excessive build-up of plaque (bacteria), and harden into tartar over-time. This may cause gum inflammation and if left untreated, can cause severe gum and jawbone damage with eventual tooth loss. 


How Periodontitis Develops

Plaque is a sticky, bacteria-rich biofilm which forms on the teeth after eating and drinking. Daily brushing and flossing are very effective at removing plaque and help keep it at a manageable level. However, this process is constantly forming. If there is an excessive amount of plaque on the teeth, it can harden into tartar (calculus) which can only be removed with a professional scale and clean at your dentist. 


The earliest stage of gum disease is called gingivitis reversible inflammation around the gums). Ongoing inflammation will eventually lead to periodontitis (irreversible gum inflammation), whereby plaque, tartar and bacteria begin to cause serious damage to the gums and jawbone. Eventually, teeth may be lost as a result of uncontrolled gum disease. There are possibilities that bacterial infection will also enter your bloodstream, raising your risk of heart and respiratory complications.  More importantly, the inflammatory markers eg C-Reactive Protein, as released by the liver in response to inflammation, can circulate in the bloodstream, causing detrimental effects to other parts of the body

There are a number of factors which can increase your risk of periodontitis, including:

  • Tobacco use
  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Poor nutrition
  • Deficiency in Vitamin C
  • Living with diseases including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease
  • Obesity


Signs of Periodontal Disease

Healthy gums should be firm, with a pale pink appearance and secure fit around the teeth. Typical symptoms of periodontitis include:

  • Irritated/Swollen Gums
  • Inflamed gums with a red or purple appearance
  • Gums which are tender to the touch
  • Gums which bleed easily (particularly during brushing/flossing)
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth
  • Pain when chewing
  • Gums which pull away from the teeth, making them look longer than usual
  • Changes in the way teeth fit together


Stages of Gum Disease

Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease. During this stage, the gums are inflamed, swollen and red in appearance. They may also bleed easily during brushing and flossing. Provided gingivitis is detected early, it is easily treated and reversible.

If this disease is ignored, gingivitis may progress to early/moderate stage periodontitis. At this stage, some gum loss and jawbone damage will be evident. As the gums and jawbone play a crucial role in securing teeth, it is important to seek diagnosis of your condition as soon as possible. Periodontitis cannot be reversed, but it can be controlled and managed. This will allow for more favourable long-term outcomes for the affected teeth. 

Periodontitis is generally painless but if it gradually destroys the supporting gums and bone of the teeth. It is not uncommon for the disease to reach an advanced stage before symptoms appear.

Advanced periodontitis is the final stage of gum disease, and it is very difficult to treat. Due to extensive gum and jawbone damage, tooth extraction and gum surgery may be necessary. At this stage, you may be referred to a periodontist to discuss your treatment options. 


Preventing Periodontitis

Periodontitis is a common yet preventable issue, and most cases are caused by poor oral hygiene. The single best thing you can do to prevent periodontitis is maintain a healthy oral hygiene routine, which involves brushing your teeth morning and night, flossing daily and visiting your dentist for regular check-ups. 


Book an Appointment at iSmile Dentistry Today

If you have been experiencing any signs and symptoms relating to periodontal disease, please book an appointment at iSmile Dentistry today. Early diagnosis and treatment will ensure the best chance of saving any affected teeth and slowing the progression of gum disease.

Our St Leonards clinic is open Monday to Friday. Please call 02 9030 4310 to book an appointment.