Genning up on Gingivitis: Your 10 questions answered about gum disease

With February being National Gum Disease Awareness Month, we have answered your top 10 concerns (as identified by answerthepublic.com) about gum disease (gingivitis).

Is gum disease common?

Sadly, it is common in the USA and the UK, with statistics suggesting that some degree of gum disease affects 50-90% of the adult population.[i] There’s a myth that bleeding gums – a common symptom of gum disease – only affect older people. This is certainly not true. Gingivitis can affect people of all ages, although the problem is less common in children.

 

Is gum disease hereditary?

Current studies suggest that your genetic makeup could make you more susceptible to gum disease.[ii] However, other factors like your oral hygiene, whether you smoke and your alcohol consumption all play a big role in whether you develop gum disease.

 

Is the damage caused by gum disease reversible?

The first stage of gum disease, gingivitis, can be reversed.[iii] With improved oral hygiene, professional intervention from your dental team and small changes to your lifestyle, you can restore your gums to health and repair any damage that was caused. However, if the disease is allowed to progress to periodontitis, it’s no longer possible to completely reverse the damage it causes without more extensive professional intervention.[iv] That’s why looking after your gums from the outset is a must.

 

Is gum disease curable?

Gingivitis, once identified and treated effectively, can absolutely be resolved. The inflamed gum tissue will return to normal once the dental biofilm (commonly known as plaque) has been removed.iii

 

Can gum disease cause loose teeth?

If gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, it can destroy the bone that supports your teeth. This can cause teeth to loosen or even lead to tooth loss.iii Identifying the problem early is, therefore, essential to ensure you keep your natural teeth for longer.

 

Is gum disease contagious?

While it’s unlikely you’ll contract gingivitis from someone else, it is most often caused by a bacterial infection that can be spread through saliva. So, exposure to that bacteria may lead to gingivitis. People with poor oral health may be more susceptible.[v]

 

What does gum disease look like?

Gums will look red, swollen, tender and/or bleed. The gums may also pull away from the teeth making them appear longer.

 

Why does gum disease happen?

Poor dental health habits are the most likely to cause gum disease. These include not brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste or not effectively cleaning between the teeth daily with an interdental brush, floss or a water flosser. Dental plaque that is not removed every day can harden and form tartar. Tartar build-up can then lead to gum inflammation and gum disease.[vi] Only professional cleaning by a dentist or dental hygienist/ therapist can remove tartar.

Smoking can make gum disease worse too. People who smoke are more likely to produce bacterial plaque and because smoking causes a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream, infected gums don’t heal as well.[vii]

 

Will gum disease go away on its own?

No. It is crucial to improve oral hygiene and seek support from the dental team to treat gum disease.

 

How does gum disease affect your health?

Gum disease can increase your risk of diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, poor pregnancy outcomes[viii] and even dementia.[ix] Your oral health and general health are closely linked, so both must be looked after carefully.

 

How is gum disease treated?

This requires the removal of all plaque and tartar from the teeth.[x] Once your teeth are clean, your dentist may need to treat the roots of the teeth to make sure that any remaining pockets of bacteria are removed. You will then need to adopt a regular, healthy oral care routine, which includes brushing with fluoride at least twice a day (spitting after brushing, not rinsing), cleaning between your teeth every day and replacing your toothbrush every one to three months.[xi] Visiting your dentist and/or dental hygienist regularly is crucial to help prevent gum disease too.

What can the Rodericks Dental Partners dental team do to help?

Your local Rodericks Dental Partners practice team can help in many ways. We can answer any questions you may have about your oral hygiene and provide professional advice on how to improve your routine. We can help to identify whether you have gum disease and either help you treat it or prevent it in the future. If you have any queries at all, find your local practice at https://rodericksdentalpartners.co.uk/our-practices/search and give us a call!


[i] National Institute for Health and Care Excellence https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/gingivitis-periodontitis/background-information/prevalence/

[ii] Tettamanti L, Gaudio RM, Iapichino A, Mucchi D, Tagliabue A. Genetic susceptibility and periodontal disease: a retrospective study on a large italian sample. Oral Implantol (Rome). 2017 Apr 10;10(1):20-27. doi: 10.11138/orl/2017.10.1.020. PMID: 28757932; PMCID: PMC5516423. [Accessed December 2023]

[iii] Rathee M, Jain P. Gingivitis. [Updated 2023 Mar 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557422/ [Accessed December 2023]

[iv] Könönen E, Gursoy M, Gursoy UK. Periodontitis: A Multifaceted Disease of Tooth-Supporting Tissues. J Clin Med. 2019 Jul 31;8(8):1135. doi: 10.3390/jcm8081135. PMID: 31370168; PMCID: PMC6723779. [Accessed December 2023]

[v] Healthline https://www.healthline.com/health/dental-and-oral-health/is-gingivitis-contagious

[vi] Intan Suhana MA, Farha A, Hassan BM. Inflammation of the Gums. Malays Fam Physician. 2020 Mar 18;15(1):71-73. PMID: 32284812; PMCID: PMC7136683. [Accesssed December 2023]

[vii] Oral Health Foundation, https://www.dentalhealth.org/gum-disease

[viii] Kim J, Amar S. Periodontal disease and systemic conditions: a bidirectional relationship. Odontology. 2006 Sep;94(1):10-21. doi: 10.1007/s10266-006-0060-6. PMID: 16998613; PMCID: PMC2443711. [Accessed December 2023]

[ix] Guo H, Chang S, Pi X, Hua F, Jiang H, Liu C, Du M. The Effect of Periodontitis on Dementia and Cognitive Impairment: A Meta-Analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jun 25;18(13):6823. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18136823. PMID: 34202071; PMCID: PMC8297088. [Accessed December 2023]

[x] Gasner NS, Schure RS. Periodontal Disease. [Updated 2023 Apr 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554590/ [Accessed December 2023]

[xi] NHS England https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gum-disease/


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