What are the symptoms of gum disease?

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is the inflammation and infection of the gums. Gum disease can occur where there is a build-up of plaque and tartar (calculus) on teeth which houses harmful bacteria. The best way to avoid gum disease is by establishing good oral hygiene patterns, cleaning and flossing your teeth daily to prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria.

The initial stage of gum disease is referred to as gingivitis (an inflammation of your gums). If you have gingivitis, you may have symptoms such as bleeding gums (especially when brushing or flossing), bad breath, gum redness or tenderness. Gingivitis is reversible and can be treated by regularly removing the plaque and tartar from teeth. A regular scale and clean by your dentist and maintaining your own daily oral hygiene habits will prevent the build-up of plaque and tartar and help keep your gums healthy.

If gingivitis is not treated and the inflammation and bacterial infection continues, it may progress to an advanced stage of gum disease called periodontitis. This stage of gum disease can cause serious damage to teeth and gums and may also impact on the bone supporting your teeth. The gums may start to recede or pull away from your teeth forming pockets between the gum and teeth. These pockets become harder to clean and the disease continues. As the infection progresses, the surrounding bone is impacted and in severe cases, teeth may become loose and require removal.

You may not be aware that you have gum disease so regular dental check-ups are important. The earlier gum disease is identified and treated, the better the long term outcome. Treatment of gum disease will vary depending upon the stage of gum disease present, however the aim of treatment remains the same, to stop or slow down the progress of disease and to help you introduce daily maintenance procedures that help keep your gums healthy.

Your dentist will look for signs of gum disease during your routine dental check-ups. Signs may include bleeding gums, red and swollen gums, bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth, or teeth which have become loose. Should you notice any of these signs, it is important to visit the dentist to discuss any concerns.

We recommend that you check your health cover before seeking treatment. You can call nib on 13 14 63 or log on to nib Online Services to review your dental cover and remaining annual limits.