Gum disease: what is it and what to do about it

Gum disease is a common condition affecting a large proportion of the population and something seen everyday at Shandon Dental. In a recent survey the Irish Dental Association finds that 80% of the Irish population have some sort of gum disease. Link to detail on the survey here.

It is largely broken into 2 sub groups – Gingivitis and Periodontal disease.

Gum disease - gingival recession
Gingivitis is an inflammatory condition affecting the gums or gingiva. It normally occurs because of plaque or bacteria build-up and poor oral hygiene. Untreated gingivitis can become periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is a more serious form. It is characterised by attachment/bone loss around the teeth and supporting structures. Left untreated it can cause loosening of teeth and ultimately to tooth loss.

Gum disease signs and symptoms:

Red/purple gums.
Bleeding when brushing, eating or flossing.
Gums sore/tender to touch.
Persistent bad breath i.e. halitosis.
Teeth look longer and the gums may be receding back.
Loosening teeth or gaps forming between the teeth.

Note: it’s important to note that periodontal disease can form with no bleeding or pain from the gums. This is common in smokers because blood vessel constriction can occur in the mouth due to smoking.

Risk factors and causes:

Poor oral hygiene.
Inadequate / poor brushing with no cleaning in between teeth.
Hormonal changes such as those caused by puberty, menopause or menstrual cycle.
Poor diet VitC deficiency for example is linked with a higher risk.
Diseases such as diabetes have a higher incidence of gum disease.
Drugs – recreational or drugs that cause dry mouth have a higher link with gum disease.
Family history: there can be a family/genetic trend towards gum disease.


Treatment is broken into what can be done at home and that which needs to be completed in surgery.

How you can help treat gum disease at home:

Brush your teeth 2-3 times daily with fluoride toothpaste and soft/medium brush.
Clean in between your teeth with floss of interdental brushes such as Tepe brushes. Read more in our bleeding gums blog post.
Use of an anti-bacterial mouthwash away from brushing.
Quit / limit smoking.
Adopt good dietary habits +/- use of a multi-vitamin.

Treatment in dental surgery:

Frequent scale and polish with dentist or hygienist
In more advanced cases several cleanings may be required. Cleanings where the hygienist will clean below the gum line and clean the root of the tooth. This promotes healing of the gums.
A specialist referral may be required in very advanced cases or where the patient or dentist/hygienist can’t keep the it under control. If this is required your dentist will fully talk you through this

If your worried about your gums or are worried that you may have gum disease don’t hesitate to contact us and book a consultation.