Preventing gum disease

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is an inflammatory disease caused by build-up of plaque on teeth. The bacteria in dental plaque affect the gums and other tissues that support the teeth.

Summary

There are two kinds of gum disease:

  • gingivitis
  • periodontitis.

Photo of someone with gingivitis. Their gums are red and inflammed, and you can see plaque around the gumline.
Gingivitis

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that often goes unnoticed because it isn’t painful.

  • If left untreated, it can develop into periodontitis.
  • If treated immediately, gingivitis can be reversed.

Common causes of gingivitis are:

  • not brushing your teeth properly
  • not cleaning well between your teeth.

Photo of someone with periodontitis. Their gums are red and inflammed, their teeth look lose, and under some teeth you can see the gum being destroyed.
Periodontitis

Periodontitis

Periodontitis is the destructive form of gum disease, resulting from untreated gingivitis.

When bacteria spread below the gumline, the toxins they produce can trigger an inflammatory response that destroys the gum tissues and bones supporting the teeth.

In the advanced stages, the affected tooth can become loose and fall out, or it may have to be removed.


Related websites

Healthy Smiles
User friendly advice on oral health from the New Zealand Dental Association.

NHS Choices
Quality health information from the UK National Health Service.

Reproduced with the permission of the New Zealand Dental Association, based on the ‘Keeping Your Teeth for a Lifetime ... Easy As’ resource.

Symptoms

Because it isn’t painful, gingivitis often goes unnoticed. Look out for these warning signs:

  • red, swollen or tender gums
  • bleeding while brushing or flossing
  • bad breath.

If you’ve developed periodontitis, you may also have:

  • receeding gums, or gums that pull away from teeth
  • loose teeth
  • pus between the gum and tooth
  • change in the way teeth fit together when biting.

If you have any of these symptoms, make an appointment to see your dentist.

Reproduced with the permission of the New Zealand Dental Association, based on the ‘Keeping Your Teeth for a Lifetime ... Easy As’ resource.

Prevention

You can easily prevent gingivitis by:

  • brushing your teeth at least twice a day
  • flossing daily
  • having your teeth cleaned professionally when you have check-ups, to remove plaque and tartar (hardened dental plaque)
  • quitting smoking.

You can watch a video on how to floss on the Healthy Smiles website.

Reproduced with the permission of the New Zealand Dental Association, based on the ‘Keeping Your Teeth for a Lifetime ... Easy As’ resource.

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