Gum disease is a very common condition where the gums become swollen, sore or infected.
Most adults in the UK have gum disease to some degree and most people experience it at least once. It’s much less common in children.
If you have gum disease, your gums may bleed when you brush your teeth and you may have bad breath. This early stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis.
If gingivitis isn’t treated, a condition called periodontitis can develop. This affects more tissues that support teeth and hold them in place.
If periodontitis isn’t treated, the bone in your jaw may be damaged and small spaces can open up between the gum and teeth. Your teeth can become loose and may eventually fall out.
What causes gum disease?
Gum disease is caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth. Plaque is a sticky substance that contains bacteria.
Some bacteria in plaque are harmless, but some are harmful for the health of your gums. If you don’t remove plaque from your teeth by brushing them, it builds up and irritates your gums. This can lead to redness with bleeding, swelling and soreness.
It’s important to have regular dental check-ups so any problems with your teeth and gums can be detected and treated early.
If you’ve never had gum disease and have good oral health, you may only need to visit your dentist every one to two years for a check-up.
You may need to visit your dentist more frequently if you’ve had problems with gum disease in the past. At each appointment your dentist will advise when you need your next appointment.
If you have an increased risk of developing gum problems – for example, if you smoke or have diabetes – you may be advised to visit your dentist more often so your teeth and gums can be closely monitored.