What you need to know

Gum disease is a common problem worldwide. Around 90% of people will suffer from severe gum disease, with a further substantial amount likely to have minor problems. 

In fact gum disease is a major problem of tooth loss among the older population. Yet this common problem is frequently ignored.

Sometimes this is because there are no visible signs of a problem or even any pain initially, in other cases the signs that all is not well – like bleeding gums- are not recognized as a problem. Some people think for example, that gums which bleed on brushing is a sign of a conscientious oral hygiene. 

This is not true. Bleeding gums can be the first visible indication of serious gum disease which could lead to tooth loss. 


The healthy gum or gingival as the area surrounding the neck of the tooth as also known has a firm texture and is salmon pink in colour.

Bleeding in this region is usually related to one of two common dental problems – gingivitis or periodontitis- although both these inflammatory gum diseases can be present without bleeding.



Gingivitis is a reversible inflammation of the gum which is directly related to oral hygiene. When plaque bacteria build up it starts to irritate the gums causing inflammation. The symptoms of gingivitis include: bleeding gums, which can occur while brushing the teeth, or eating ‘hard’ foods like apples; a change in the gum colour from salmon pink to deep shade of red; and in some cases, bad breath, and also swollen gums.



Periodontitis is a progressive gum disease which is a frequent problem among the older population, although not exclusive to this age is possible to develop periodontitis from gingivitis, although this is not always the case. With periodontitis inflammation of the gums spread downwards or upwards, causing the gum to be detached from the tooth. Plaque collects in the gap that is formed. It can start to cause irreversible damage to the area supporting the teeth. Without treatment, this can result in premature tooth loss.



• Gum Disease/ Periodontitis/ Gingivitis

• Poor Oral hygiene

• Tartar

• Bacterial infection

• Excessively hard tooth brushing

• Medications

• Other bleeding/ blood clotting disorders

• Abscessed tooth

• Diabetes.


Who should be tested for gum disease?

Everyone! Gum diseases affects three out of four people at some point of life. More than three quarter of all adults currently have a form of gum disease. So, if you are over 18, your chances of having gum disease are better than 50-50.

Contrary to popular opinion, gum disease is not just for adults. Children and teenagers are also susceptible to gum diseases. It is a good idea to have children and teenagers tested for gum diseases.


How can I be tested for gum disease?

By visiting your dentist. The dentist or dental hygienist will inspect the colour and firmness of the gums and test the teeth for looseness. They will also check the way your teeth fit together when you bite. X-rays may be taken to evaluate the bone supporting the teeth.

A technique called periodontal probing is the cornerstone of testing for gum disease. In the procedure, a small measuring instrument gently inserted between the tooth and gum to measure the depth of the pocket.

Can I test myself for gum disease?

You can- and should- check yourself for the warning signs of gum disease. However, you may have gum disease that has spread into the bone and don’t have any symptoms.

Most people don’t experience any pain due to gum disease and therefore it often goes unnoticed. Many times gum disease is a silent epidemic. Only a dentist can diagnose gum disease, that’s why it is important to have regular dental check-ups, including a periodontal examination.


 The warning signs of gum diseases are:

• Bleeding gums during tooth brushing

• Red, swollen and receeding gums

• Gums that have pulled away from the teeth

• Persistence bad breath

• Pus between the teeth and the gums

• Loose or separating teeth (weak teeth)

• A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite

• A change in the fit of partial dentures

You should contact your periodontist (gum disease specialist) if you notice any of these symptoms. 

What causes gum diseases?

The main cause of gum diseases is bacterial plaque, a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. Daily cleaning to remove the plaque are essential to a healthy mouth.

How can I prevent Bleeding Gums?

The best way to prevent bleeding gums is by brushing and flossing everyday and careful use of antimicrobial mouthwash and by visiting your dentist regularly for a periodontal examination. In addition to testing you for gum disease, your dental staff will advise you on effective oral health care at home.

A professional cleaning by a dentist or hygienist will remove hardened calculus forms it is impossible to remove without professional care. By following this simple, straight forward program of good dental health, you can help prevent gum disease and keep your teeth a lifetime. You can enjoy a healthy smile, a natural asset to appearance. If you have not been tested for gum disease recently, call your dentist/periodontist.



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