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Gum infections, Gingivitis and Periodontal disease are in fact different stages of the same degenerative process of inflammation and infection of the gum and surrounding structures, including the jaw bone.

The process is caused by the accumulation of plaque around and in between the teeth. Plaque is a combination of food and bacteria mixed together. In this film, the bacteria are feeding on the food and are breeding. As this occurs, toxins and acids are produced as a bi-product. These acids and toxins can affect the teeth, leading to demineralisation and tooth decay. However, the toxins can also affect the surrounding gum and bone. As these toxins hit the gum, the gum tries to fight the toxins by producing an inflammatory response. During this normal bodily response, cells called Mast cells are produced and act by eating any foreign bodies that are causing the attack. The only problem is that Mast cells are unable to differentiate between good and bad cells. This can then lead to the gum effectively eating itself away. This is leads to bleeding and recession of the gums and is commonly known as Gingivitis.

As this process progresses, it begins to affect the surrounding bone. When this happens, the process is known as Periodontitis or Jaw bone disease and can lead to the loss of the surrounding Jaw bone. Effectively, this can lead to exposure of the teeth root surfaces, sensitivity and loose teeth if the disease is well progressed.

Should enough bacteria get caught in and around the gum, it is possible for an infection to develop. This will usually lead to a localised pain and swelling in the gum caused by what is commonly termed an abscess. Furthermore, the plaque that causes this problem can be hardened through a mineralisation process caused by the saliva in the mouth. When this occurs, the plaque turns into calculus/tartar/scale. Calculus leads to an increased build up of plaque.

Signs of Periodontal disease are:

  • Red, swollen, tender painful or bleeding gums.
  • Receding gum lines.
  • Persistent bad breath.
  • A bad taste in the mouth.
  • A loose denture.
  • Loose teeth.
  • The presence of abscesses in between and around the teeth.

Most Periodontal issues can be linked to diet, oral hygiene, habits and medication. To identify the cause of periodontal disease it is important to have a full dental examination, including a gum assessment, possible x-rays and an full history detailing the above mentioned areas.

Treatment of Periodontal disease is usually carried out through a once off, or a series of (depending on the progression of the disease), debridement(s) to the teeth and root surfaces. Hopefully the gums, with appropriate Active Maintenance, should heal and take on a normal appearance and feel. Unfortunately, any bone and gum already lost cannot be replaced. Hence it is very important to diagnose early signs of gingivitis and stop the process early.

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