Gum Disease

Gum disease is caused by plaque; a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on your teeth.

If left, to build up on and between teeth it irritates your gums and causes them to swell.

When this swelling happens, it can allow a space or ‘pocket’ to form around the tooth. As the amount of bacterial plaque increases, so does the depth of the pocket. This causes gums (and the supporting bone) to recede, exposing the root of the tooth. If left untreated, the pocket can become so large that the teeth can become loose and may even need to be removed.

There are two stages of gum disease:

  • Gingivitis
  • Periodontitis


Gingivitis means inflammation of the gums. It occurs when the gums around the teeth become very red and swollen. Often the swollen gums bleed when brushed. If left untreated, long-standing gingivitis can develop into severe gingivitis or periodontitis.


More teeth are lost through periodontitis than through tooth decay. Periodontitis is an advanced stage of gum disease where bacterial plaque destroys the gums, soft tissue and eventually the bone that holds the teeth in the jaw thus causing the affected teeth to become loose. If left untreated, the tooth may eventually fall out or need to be removed.

How is gum disease treated?

The best way to treat all gum disease, including periodontitis and gingivitis, is to prevent it with good oral hygiene. Good oral hygiene involves:

  • Brushing your teeth for 2-3 minutes twice a day (in the morning and at night)
  • Using an electric toothbrush if possible
  • Using toothpaste that contains fluoride (fluoride is a natural mineral that helps protect against tooth decay)
  • Cleaning between your teeth with floss or little brushes daily
  • Not smoking
  • Regularly visiting your dentist
  • Scale and polish

This removes plaque and calculus (hardened plaque) that can build up on your teeth; we have two friendly hygienists available for this.
Our hygienists will remove calculus from your teeth using ultrasonic or hand scalers, then they polish your teeth to remove marks or stains. If a lot of plaque or tartar has built up you may need to have more than one scale and polish.

They will also advise on possible improvements to your brushing technique.

Root planing

In some cases of gum disease or periodontitis, root planing (debridement) may be required. This is a deep clean under the gums that gets rid of bacteria from the roots of your teeth. Before having the treatment, you may need to have an anaesthetic (painkilling medication) to numb the area. You may experience some pain and discomfort for up to 48 hours after having root planing.

Further treatment

If you have severe gum disease, periodontitis or ANUG, you may need further treatment, such as periodontal surgery. In some cases, it is necessary to remove the affected tooth. Your dentist will be able to tell you about the procedure needed and how it is carried out. If necessary, we will also be able to refer you to a specialist.

Stopping smoking

Smoking is the most significant risk factor for gum disease and periodontitis.

Giving up smoking can greatly improve your oral health.

If you need help or advice about giving up smoking, call the free NHS Smoking Helpline on 0800 022 4322. Advice is available from 7am-11pm, seven days a week.

Your GP can give you information and advice about giving up smoking, and you can also visit the NHS Smokefree website.

For more information regarding this treatment
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