Inflammation of the gum caused by bacteria which have not been cleaned away by routine oral hygiene techniques is called gingivitis or gum disease. This inflammation is relatively common and can usually be resolved relatively quickly.
Typical symptoms of gum disease are redness, swelling and bleeding of the gums especially after brushing or flossing but sometimes even spontaneously where patients might report blood on their pillow in the morning. This bleeding can also be associated with pain, teeth sensitivity and bad breath (halitosis).
Causes of gum disease
The usual cause is poor oral hygiene, specifically, a lack of efficient brushing, flossing or other interdental cleaning methods.
Smoking can also cause gum disease as the toxic effect of tobacco smoke reduces the blood supply to the gum tissue, starving it of oxygen and other nutrients causing necrosis (death) of this tissue and ultimately recession of the gum.
Long term impact of gum disease
If gum disease goes untreated, then eventually, as with the effects of smoking the gum tissue dies and recedes. The bacteria that caused the gums to be inflamed can then infect the gum, spread into the jaw bone and begin eroding the bone surrounding the tooth.
This condition is called periodontitis and can eventually lead to the tooth becoming loose and ultimately lost. Generally, this is how people lose their teeth over the longer term if gum disease is not treated.
Gum disease treatments
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, treatment usually begins with regular in-depth cleaning sessions with the dental hygienist.
The hygienist will, in turn, give advice and instruction on how best to keep the mouth clean at home in between visits. This advice often comprises switching to an electric toothbrush, regular interdental cleaning with either floss or interdental brushes and the use of specific antibacterial mouthwashes or gels.
If the condition is acute, antibiotics may be needed as part of a full mouth disinfection.
It would be advisable that smokers consider giving up the habit to help maintain the long-term health of the gums and teeth.