As part of your examination, your dentist and hygienist will check your teeth and gums for signs of gum disease. Left untreated, the disease frequently leads to tooth loss. It has also been linked to other health complaints including diabetes.



Gingivitis is the inflammation of the soft, pink gum tissue that sits around the teeth. The gum may appear red and puffy and bleeds easily when brushing and flossing. It is not usually painful, but other symptoms may include bad breath and spontaneous bleeding. It is reversible.


Gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, an infection that attacks the supporting structures around the teeth such as the jaw bone and the gum and ligaments which hold the teeth in place. It often goes unnoticed because there are few obvious signs and symptoms. Periodontitis symptoms are similar to those of gingivitis – bleeding gums, bad taste and bad breath – however, it is far more destructive. Some people experience pus and pain. Once jaw bone is destroyed around the teeth, it cannot ‘grow back’. Sometimes surgical bone grafting is possible to replace bone, but it is not a guaranteed fix.


Plaque is the primary cause of gum disease. It is a sticky film that contains many types of bacteria. It forms on all tooth surfaces and in the space between the tooth and gum (pocket). Plaque is soft and can be removed with a toothbrush, floss and/or interdental brush. Everyone has plaque, however some people have more ‘bad’ bacteria which is known to cause gum disease.

If plaque is allowed to accumulate on the teeth and gums long enough, it calcifies and becomes calculus (or tartar as it is sometimes called). This cannot be removed with a toothbrush or floss. It is a hard substance like coral that harbours bacteria.

There are many factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing gum disease including:

  • Poor oral hygiene habits
  • Genetics and family history of gum disease and tooth loss
  • Diabetes, heart disease and other health conditions that suppress the immune system
  • Smoking
  • Old, rough fillings that trap plaque
  • Wearing partial dentures
  • Gaps that trap food
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy


If periodontal disease is not stabilised, teeth may be lost. If active gum disease is allowed to continue it directly increases the chances of developing, or having complications with, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory infections and premature and pre-term low birth weight babies to name a few. Recent studies show the health of your mouth directly impacts the health of your body.


  • Reduces gum bleeding and soreness
  • Removes hard bacterial deposits (calculus) and soft plaque from the teeth and gums
  • Reduces pockets between teeth and gums, making them easier to keep clean
  • Increases the chances of retaining teeth
  • Increases overall health and wellbeing – it is a proven fact that people who have healthy gums live longer

Treating gum disease may take several appointments. Ongoing maintenance is also critical for successful management.

A guide to the number and types of appointments you may need is as follows:

  • A periodontal examination involves gathering information on the severity of gum disease – this may include taking x-rays and recording periodontal pocket measurements on a chart
  • Removal of hard bacterial deposits (tartar/calculus) and plaque may take up to four appointments
  • Supportive periodontal maintenance may be scheduled at three monthly intervals, depending on the healing response
  • Occasionally, unresponsive areas or sites that will not heal properly will be referred to a specialist periodontist to try to save teeth

To ensure their comfort, some patients require local anaesthetic to complete their treatment.

A home care routine will be tailored to your individual needs. Various cleaning aids including toothbrush type, floss aids, oral irrigators, interdental brushes, rinses and toothpastes may be recommended to help reduce plaque and calculus build-up.

Withers Dental

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