The Silent Threat: Ignoring Gum Disease
Gum Disease

The Silent Threat: Ignoring Gum Disease

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Gum disease can lead to tooth loss and other serious health problems if left untreated.

5 minute read

If your gums look red, feel sore or swollen, or bleed when you brush your teeth, you might have gum disease. This is one of the most common oral health problems, but it can usually be prevented by taking good care of your teeth and gums. If it’s allowed to develop, gum disease can have serious effects on both oral health and overall health.

Around 3 in 10 Australian adults have moderate to severe gum disease, with more having milder gum disease that can become serious if it’s not treated in its early stages. Read this guide to find out about the signs, causes and types of gum disease, how it can be treated, and what happens if it’s not.

If you need to see a dentist about your symptoms or to discuss gum disease treatment in East Vic Park, call EVP Dental on (08) 9470 3944 or book an appointment online.

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What are the signs of gum disease?

Healthy gums should be pink and relatively firm to the touch. Gum disease (also called periodontal disease) doesn’t always have obvious symptoms, but some common signs in its early stage include:

  • Discoloured red or purple gums
  • Puffy or swollen gums
  • Gums feel sore or painful
  • Gums bleed when you brush, floss or eat hard foods

If gum disease is more advanced, other symptoms may include:

  • Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Receding gums
  • Changes in your bite
  • Pain when chewing
  • Teeth are wobbly or falling out

Some of these effects may have other causes, such as brushing your teeth aggressively or a medical condition. A dentist can examine your mouth to determine whether you have gum disease or another concern and can recommend a suitable treatment plan to get your oral health back on track.

What causes gum disease?

Gum disease is caused by bacteria that build up on teeth in a layer known as plaque, which also causes tooth decay. When plaque builds up around the gumline, the bacteria can irritate the gums, leading to an inflammation response from the body that causes the gums to swell and bleed. If plaque isn’t removed, it can harden into calculus or tartar and cause further irritation.

Risk factors

You may be more likely to develop gum disease if you:

  • Have poor oral hygiene
  • Have nutritional deficiencies
  • Smoke, drink excessive alcohol or use illegal drugs
  • Have a dry mouth
  • Often feel stressed
  • Have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease or autoimmune diseases
  • Are taking certain medications (such as antidepressants, antihistamines or immunosuppressants)

Hormone changes during puberty, pregnancy and menopause can also make gum disease more likely to develop. Some people may also be more prone to gum disease due to genetics, and bacteria can pass through saliva be passed to other people through saliva.

Smokers are up to 6 times more likely to develop gum disease than non-smokers. Smoking can also affect healing times and mask gum disease symptoms, which could delay a diagnosis.

Stages of gum disease

There are two stages of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the early stage, which can generally be reversed before it causes permanent damage. Periodontitis is the advanced stage, which can permanently damage the gums, teeth and other structures, as well as leading to other health complications.


Bleeding gums while brushing
Bleeding gums is a sign of gingivitis

Gingivitis is the mild form of gum disease, when the gums may be red, swollen and prone to bleeding. This stage isn’t usually painful, though the gums may feel sensitive. Gingivitis may be reversed through a combination of improved brushing and flossing at home and oral hygiene treatments provided at a dental clinic.


If gingivitis isn’t treated, it can develop into periodontitis. This can cause the gums around the teeth to weaken and start to pull back, creating pockets between the teeth and gums that trap bacteria, which can’t be reached by brushing or flossing. These bacteria can proceed to damage the hard and soft tissues that hold the teeth in the jaw, which can eventually lead to teeth loosening or falling out.

Periodontitis may involve pain and swelling, and the infection may cause bad breath or a discharge of pus from the gum. If your gums erode, this can also cause the teeth to become more sensitive to hot, cold or sweet food and drinks. Periodontitis can’t be treated at home and needs care from a dental professional.

What can happen if periodontitis isn’t treated?

When gum disease develops from gingivitis into periodontitis, it can no longer be reversed by improving your oral hygiene at home or lowering your risk factors and will continue to worsen without intervention from a dentist.

Over time, the infection can cause permanent damage to gum tissue, causing the gums to pull back from the teeth and exposing the more sensitive teeth roots. It can also damage bone and ligaments that support the teeth, leading to tooth loss and bone loss in many cases. The sooner periodontitis is treated, the more likely you are to keep your teeth.

Gum disease is also a risk factor for oral cancer, and there is a growing body of evidence linking advanced gum disease with other health problems elsewhere in the body as bacteria travel through the bloodstream. People with gum disease are more likely to develop problems such as cardiovascular (heart) disease, stroke, diabetes and lung conditions, or to experience complications of existing conditions.

If you’re concerned about gum disease and its effects, contact us to talk to a dentist today.

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How is gum disease treated?

A dentist can diagnose gum disease by examining your teeth and gums for plaque buildup, gum recession and other signs. This may involve taking x-rays to check the condition of your teeth roots and jawbone. Your dentist will also ask about your symptoms and measure the size of any bacteria pockets to determine how severe gum disease is, and which treatment options are appropriate.

Treatments for gum disease depend on how far the disease has advanced.

Treating gingivitis

Early gum disease, or gingivitis, can usually be reversed by improving your daily oral hygiene routine, visiting a dental clinic for regular oral hygiene maintenance treatments, and trying to lower your risk factors where possible. This can all help to remove the infection before it causes permanent damage.

During a dental visit, a hygienist, oral health therapist or dentist can remove plaque and tartar from your teeth and may also treat the roots of the teeth just under the gums if bacteria are present. Your dentist may recommend steps to improve your oral hygiene routine, such as toothbrushing and dietary tips, or discussing floss alternatives such as interdental brushes to help you keep your teeth as clean as possible.

Treating periodontitis

If you have more advanced gum disease, or periodontitis, this can’t be reversed and needs treatment by an experienced dentist. Periodontal treatment options may include some of the following:

  • Scaling and root planing: Deep cleaning of the tooth roots below the gum to remove plaque and tartar (scaling) before smoothing their surface to make it harder for plaque to build up (root planing).

  • Pocket reduction surgery: Making an incision in the gum to remove pockets of bacteria and disinfect the area.
  • Tissue removal: Minor surgery to remove infected gum or bone tissue and stop gum disease from spreading. Your dentist may discuss restoring this lost tissue with a gum graft, bone graft or guided tissue regeneration.
  • Tooth extraction: If one or more teeth or their supporting structures are too badly damaged to repair, extracting and replacing teeth could restore their function. Your dentist may discuss replacement options such as a dental implant, bridge or denture.
  • Antibiotics: These may be prescribed to help to clear an infection, though they won’t treat periodontitis on their own.

How can I prevent gum disease?


Gum disease can be prevented before it causes problems by taking good care of your teeth and gums every day. This involves:

  • Brushing your teeth at least twice a day, for two minutes, using fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Brushing at a 45-degree angle to clean your teeth just under the gumline
  • Flossing between your teeth at least once a day, using traditional floss or another interdental cleaning tool
  • Eating a balanced diet without too much sugar
  • Not smoking, drinking to excess or using illegal drugs
  • Visiting the dentist once or twice a year for your regular check-up and oral hygiene maintenance

If you often feel stressed or have a related health condition, talking to a doctor or other caregiver could also help to lower you gum disease risk.

Gum disease treatment in East Vic Park

If you're worried that you or your child might have gum disease, it’s important to see a dentist as soon as possible. Our experienced dentists at EVP Dental will examine your mouth and ask about your symptoms to determine whether you have gum disease or another issue, and we’ll explain all your options for treatment. Make an appointment by calling our friendly team today on (08) 9470 3944 or book online.

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