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Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is an inflammatory disease caused by accumulation of bacteria (dental plaque) on the teeth. Dental plaque is a soft, sticky and initially invisible film of bacteria that forms on teeth. If not removed by brushing and flossing, the bacteria in dental plaque can cause tooth decay and gum disease. Gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults.


Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease, and is most common in adults. Most often it is unnoticed as it is not painful. Your gums may become red, swollen and bleed while cleaning.  Gingivitis can be treated and reversed by professional cleaning and effective home care. If left untreated gingivitis can develop into periodontitis. 


Periodontitis is the destructive form of gum disease and it is not reversible. However it can be treated and stabilised. As the bone and soft tissues supporting the teeth are lost due to this disease, a gum pocket forms around the tooth. This pocket becomes infected, which destroys more supporting bone and soft tissue. Eventually, the tooth becomes loose and falls out or it may need to be removed.

You can prevent gum disease by brushing twice daily, flossing once a day and visiting your dentist regularly.

Warning Signs

  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Bleeding while brushing or flossing
  • Gums that pull away from the teeth
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • Pus between the gum and the tooth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • A change in the fit of partial dentures

Sometimes gum disease can progress without any symptoms or pain. During a regular dental examination, the dentist checks for signs of gum disease, so undetected disease can be treated before it can advance.

Gum Disease Diagnosis and Prevention

Proper brushing twice a day and flossing daily will help prevent gum disease.
During a regular dental examination, the dentist or hygienist will inspect the gums and probe between the tooth and gum to check for periodontal disease.

A professional cleaning every three to six months by a dentist or dental hygienist will remove plaque and calculus from hard-to-reach areas that might otherwise be susceptible to periodontal disease. If signs of disease have progressed to a certain point, the dentist may suggest the patient see a periodontist - a dentist who specialises in the treatment of periodontal disease.