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For British in their 30s and beyond, the threat of gum disease (periodontal disease) is a very real and potentially dangerous condition. By the age of 40, over 70% of the nation’s population has some stage of the disease. Although genetics may play a small role in its development, doctors agree that gum disease is directly related to how well one cares for their teeth and gums. Gum disease is particularly dangerous because the progression of the disease is often painless and undetected until it creates serious problems.

The Stages of Gum Disease

Periodontal disease is a gradual infection of the gums and, eventually, the underlying bones of the mouth. It is caused by the build up of plaque on and around the teeth that eventually calcifies into tartar. This tartar releases bacteria, which contains toxins and a sulfur compound that slowly decay the teeth and gums. In the first stage of gum disease (known as gingivitis), the bacteria begin to weaken the fibers that hold the gums to the teeth. Gingivitis is characterized by a swelling, inflammation, and bleeding of the gums. In the advanced stage of gum disease (referred to as periodontitis), the gum tissues have decayed significantly and have pulled away from teeth. The bones below the teeth have usually become infected and begun to dissolve.

The Surgery

Treatments to alleviate the effects of gum disease depend on the severity of the tooth and gum erosion. The periodontist begins by removing the diseased tissue, scraping the tartar and plaque from the tooth’s surface and from below the gumline. The root of the tooth may need to be planed and smoothed in order to allow gum tissue to properly heal. If periodontal (deep spaces between the teeth and gums) have formed, the doctor places antibiotic fibers to fill in these spaces. The surgeon may prescribe antibiotics to stem the growth of the toxin producing bacteria while the gums heal. Once the periodontal pocket (s) is adequately rebuilt, the surgeon sutures the gums. In the case of bone decay, the surgeon may need to rebuild and shape the bone below the teeth.


The ravages of gum disease are best prevented by early detection and proper dental hygiene. Brushing your teeth twice a day helps to remove the thin layer of bacteria that release the dangerous toxins into your mouth. Flossing or other interdental cleansing is also important to keep your mouth free from residual food and bacteria. Finally, maintaining a balanced diet and taking regular trips to the dentist helps stem the advance of gum disease and keeps you healthy and smiling.