If your gingivitis isn’t treated, the inflammation may spread to the ligaments and bones that hold your teeth in place. This is a type of gum disease called periodontitis. Your gums may begin to pull away from your teeth, leaving pockets. These pockets trap plaque that you may not be able to reach with a toothbrush.
Over time, the plaque hardens to become tartar. This may irritate your gums even more by collecting more plaque. The pockets may then get deeper and even more difficult to clean, making the problem worse. Sometimes you may develop an infection in your gums. Pus may collect under your gums, causing an abscess.
Untreated periodontitis can cause your gums to shrink back from your teeth (called recession). This may then expose some of the roots of your teeth, making them sensitive. If you have any bone loss, your teeth may feel loose. If your periodontitis isn’t treated for a number of years, you may even lose some teeth.
If your gingivitis has developed into periodontitis, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Gum recession and sensitive teeth
- A wobbly tooth
- A bad taste in your mouth
- Gum abscesses (pus that collects under your gum
If you have any of these symptoms, we recommend you contact a dentist.
Acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG)
ANUG is a serious type of gum disease that develops suddenly. It is a bacterial infection that causes swelling, ulcers, bad breath (halitosis) and pain. ANUG must be treated by a dentist as soon as possible.
The symptoms of ANUG include
- Very painful ulcers that bleed easily
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- A metallic taste in your mouth
- Difficulty swallowing or talking
- Having a lot of saliva in your mouth
- You may also have a high temperature and feel generally unwell
If you have any of these symptoms, you should see a dentist straight away.
How is gum disease treated?
The type of treatment you will have will depend on how serious your gum disease is. The aim of treatment is to control any existing gum disease and prevent further problems.
- You may be able to treat mild gum disease (gingivitis) with a daily brushing and flossing routine Your dentist will arrange regular check-ups with you to monitor the size of any pockets in your gums, as well as how easily your gums bleed, to make sure these get better over time.
If your dentist thinks you have periodontitis:
- Your clinician will use a periodontal probe to measure the depth of any gaps between your teeth and gums. They may check how easily your gums bleed and how much plaque and tartar you have on your teeth. You may also need X-rays to check the state of your teeth and jaw bone.
- Root-planning may be required to treat periodontitis or acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG). Root planning removes plaque, tartar, and damaged tooth covering. Your dentist or hygienist may use a local anaesthetic to make the root-planning more comfortable. This will completely block the feeling from your gums.
- Treatment with antibiotics may be recommended if you have a very serious infection. Antiseptic mouthwash may be recommended to help discourage the growth of bacteria. However, a mouthwash can’t remove plaque already built up on your teeth – this must be brushed off or removed by a dentist.
- If you have more serious periodontitis, and other treatments haven’t worked, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist for gum surgery. This is a healthcare professional who specialises in treating periodontal diseases. Gum surgery may help to remove bacteria and repair your gums and bone. It may also improve how your teeth look and reduce any sensitivity.
Preventing gum disease
You may be able to prevent gum disease by controlling the amount of plaque and tartar that build up on your teeth. To do this you should:
Brush and floss your teeth properly
Brush your teeth for a least 2 minutes twice a day and floss daily. Rinsing your teeth with mouthwash won’t remove the plaque, you need to brush it off with a toothbrush.
You should also use inter dental brushes or dental floss to clean between your teeth.
Your dentist can show you how to use dental floss and brush your teeth correctly.
Visit your dentist and hygienist regularly
Visiting a dentist for regular scale and polish treatments will assist in the deep removal of food, plaque and tartar build up both on the tooth, and below the gum line. Tartar can’t be removed when you brush and floss at home.
Regular dental examinations will also allow your dentist to keep an eye on your overall oral health, which means any potential issues could be addressed sooner.
If you smoke, speak to your GP or pharmacist about giving up. Smoking makes you more likely to develop gum disease and can make it harder to treat gum disease.