More than 50 per cent of Finns have gum disease. Different forms of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis, which is a disease of the periodontal tissue.

Gum disease is a national disease in Finland, linked to a number of common, chronic diseases and conditions such as infertility. Gingival diseases are caused by an insufficient and irregular cleaning routine. When teeth are not cleaned properly, bacterial mass or plaque builds up on them. Bacteria irritate and inflame the gum.

Possible symptoms of an inflamed gum include redness, swelling and bleeding. Often, an inflammation can start without symptoms, with loose teeth as the first sign of the problem. Even asymptomatic gum disease can affect your overall health.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is an extremely common problem that often shows no symptoms. The most common symptoms are red and swollen gums that bleed easily.

Gingivitis may seem like a minor concern, but it may have long-lasting consequences, if it’s not treated. Gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, which may cause the tooth to come off.

Periodontitis – a disease of the periodontal tissue

Gingivitis that progresses deeper into the connecting tissue is called periodontitis. Periodontitis is an insidious national disease that affects more than 60 per cent of the over 30-year-old population.

Often, periodontitis progresses without symptoms. It causes an infection that burrows deeper into the periodontal tissue, destroying the tissue that keeps the tooth attached to the jaw bone. The body defends itself against the bacterial attack by destroying the bone and eventually, the tooth may come off. If the teeth start to feel loose, it is often too late. This is why it is important to diagnose the disease at an early stage.

Not all patients are as likely to catch the disease, but it is important to diagnose the disease as early as possible.

Treatment and prevention of gum disease

Good self-care and regular visits to the dentist are key to the treatment and prevention of gum diseases. When the gum disease is diagnosed at an early stage, it can be treated before it destroys tissue or affects overall health. Oral uses the Periosafe saliva test that reveals whether the patient has gum disease. The test enables detecting periodontitis even before it affects the periodontal tissue.

More information on the Periosafe test.

A dentist assesses the patient’s need for care and prepares the gum disease treatment plan. Gingivitis is easier to cure than periodontitis.

The treatment includes regular tartar removal either by a dentist or a dental hygienist. In severe periodontitis cases, antibiotics and surgery might be needed. Sometimes, the occlusion may need to be corrected in order to prevent further stress on the tissue caused by misaligned teeth.

Proper self-care is an integral part of both gingivitis and periodontitis treatment: teeth, gum lines and areas between the teeth must be cleaned regularly and carefully. Teeth must be brushed in the morning and in the evening. In addition to a toothbrush, you need an interdental brush or floss to remove the plaque from between the teeth. It is recommended to clean the area between your teeth daily. If your gums bleed, don’t stop cleaning them. Brush and clean the inflamed area even more carefully.

Tartar that builds on teeth surfaces and exposes the gums to gingivitis cannot be removed at home. A dental hygienist can remove tartar with an ultrasonic scaler or manually.

Gum disease affects overall health

Gum diseases cause mouth inflammation. Untreated gum infection affects your overall health and can spread to the rest of your body through your bloodstream.

Untreated mouth inflammations can affect your overall health in many ways. Research shows that they impair fertility in both men and women. They also hamper the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and affect the glucose control of diabetic patients and joint health of rheumatism patients. On the other hand, good oral health has positive effects on the control of general diseases.

Untreated gum diseases can even increase the risk of artificial joint infection, myocardial infarction and stroke. In major surgeries, there is a risk that the inflammation spreads from the mouth to the operated area. This is why gum diseases should always be treated before major surgeries.

Factors that increase the risk of gum disease

Periodontitis can pass from mouth to mouth via saliva. Children usually get the bacteria from their mother and adults from their partner. Other major periodontitis risks are age, smoking and diabetes.

Smoking increases the risk of both gingivitis and periodontitis notably. The toxins contained in cigarettes are harmful as such. Smoking also compresses gum vessels, which reduces the flow of oxygen to the periodontal tissue. It is not always easy to diagnose gum disease in smokers, because compressed vessels do not bleed as easily.

Hormones do not increase gum diseases, but they might cause a condition that looks like gingivitis. For example, women’s gums are more likely to bleed during menstruation and pregnancy because of the increased permeability of their vessels.

Diet is not an important factor in the formation of gingivitis and periodontitis, provided that it contains all the necessary vitamins and nutrients.

Tips for the prevention of gum diseases

  • Brush your teeth every morning and every evening. Use an electric toothbrush that pulses back and forth in a rotating pattern.
  • Remember to clean between your teeth, as well. Use floss, an interdental brush or a floss handle. Small interdental brushes usually fit nicely between the tooth and gum and clean the area efficiently.
  • Complement your cleaning routine with antiseptic mouthwash to prevent the formation of a bacterial coating.
  • Avoid smoking.
  • See your dentist regularly. The dentist will refer you to a dental hygienist for tartar removal, if needed.
  • The Periosafe test helps to detect gum diseases at an early stage. The test is particularly necessary if a long time has passed since the last treatment or examination.

Treatment by a dentist who specialises in gingival disease

Gum diseases can be treated by dentists and dental hygienists. If you want to see a dentist who specialises in gum diseases, Oral has several periodontists who can offer you advice.

The principal job of a periodontist is to treat inflammations of the jaw bone that surrounds the teeth. Usually, inflamed tissues are treated with flap surgery. In the surgery, the tissue around the teeth is separated from the surface of the teeth under profound local anaesthesia. When the gingival tissue is out of the way, the surfaces of the roots can be cleaned thoroughly. During the same procedure, the inflamed tissue is removed from between the gum and the teeth, which ensures that the healthy part of the tissue comes in contact with the tooth. In some cases, standard tartar removal can give the same results.

Gum recession or gum hypertrophy can also be corrected through surgery. The gum surrounding the tooth or a transplant from the palate can be used in the treatment of receded gums. If necessary, there are multiple techniques available for building more bone around the teeth.