Gum Disease

teethGum (Periodontal) disease is caused by harmful bacteria in plaque. Plaque is a sticky, soft film that builds up on teeth, orthodontic brackets and dentures. The mildest form of gum disease is Gingivitis, (inflammation of the gums), and appears as red, swollen gums which bleed on brushing. It affects adults, but is also seen in children. If it is not treated, irreversible gum disease (periodontitis) will occur which leads to loss of bone which support the teeth. The teeth may become loose and fall out or have to be removed. More adults loose their teeth through gum disease than decay.


Early gum disease (gingivitis) is totally reversible with good brushing.  If plaque is not removed, it can harden to become tartar (calculus) which can only be taken off by a dentist or hygienist. This tartar can also trap plaque round and below the gums which will lead to bone loss.

Some other medical conditions affect the chance of getting gum disease e.g. diabetes, smoking, leukaemia and Human Immunodeficiency Virus by lessening the body’s ability to fight disease.


Toothbrushing and cleaning between the teeth every day can help prevent gum disease.  (see toothbrushing)

  • Use a small headed medium brush.
  • Brush last thing at night and one other time during the day with a family fluoride toothpaste of over 1350 parts per million. (This will be displayed on the side of the tube of toothpaste.)
  • Brush all surfaces of the teeth and gums.
  • Plaque disclosing tablets help to show individuals where plaque remains after brushing. Mouthwashes are not an acceptable alternative to toothbrushing.
  • Dental floss and interdental cleaning aides also help if used correctly, but usually require demonstration by the dentist or hygienist.
  • Have regular check-ups with a dentist for professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar and to assess your gum health.
  • Stop smoking where possible.

Last updated: March 13, 2014

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