Gum Disease

Gum disease (also known as gingivitis) and periodontitis, which can follow a case of gum disease, are two conditions that affect the teeth and gums.

Gum disease causes:

  • red and inflamed (swollen) gums
  • bleeding gums when brushing teeth

Gum disease is usually caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth. Plaque is a sticky substance made up of bacteria. It is usually removed by brushing the teeth but, if it builds up, the bacteria can irritate the gums and cause inflammation (swelling).

 

Periodontitis

Periodontitis is a more severe form of gum disease. In periodontitis, the inflammation that affects the gums also affects:

  • the tissue that connects the tooth to the tooth socket, called the periodontal ligament
  • the bone in the jaw that contains the sockets of the teeth, called the alveolar bone

Periodontitis can cause a gap to develop between the tooth and the gum, making the tooth feel loose and, in some cases, fall out.

 

Acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG)

 

Acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) is another form of severe gum disease. It used to be called Vincent's gingivitis or trench mouth. ANUG is a painful bacterial infection of the gums that can cause swelling and ulcers (open sores) to develop.

 

How common is gum disease?

 

Most people have at least one case of mild gum disease during their lifetime. In the UK, it is estimated that 50-90% of the adult population has some degree of gum disease.

Each year in the UK, there are six cases of severe periodontitis for every 100,000 people. Aggressive or early-onset periodontitis, where severe periodontitis is present before 35 years of age, affects 1-2% of the population.
 
ANUG is rare and usually only affects people with a weakened immune system (the body’s natural defence system) or people who are malnourished (do not eat enough nutrients to maintain good health).

 

Outlook

 

A mild case of gum disease can usually be successfully treated with good oral hygiene. This should include brushing the teeth twice a day (in the morning and last thing at night) and flossing at least three times a week.

If gum disease is not treated, it can develop into periodontitis or, in severe cases, ANUG. These conditions can cause more serious complications, such as painful sores, which can destroy parts of the gums, and loose and unstable teeth

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