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Causes of gum disease

Gum disease is caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth.  Plaque is a sticky substance that contains bacteria.  Some bacteria in plaque is harmless, but some are very harmful for the health of your gums. If you do not remove plaque from your teeth, it will build up and irritate your gums, leading to inflammation and soreness.  Good oral hygiene can usually prevent gum disease, and treat mild-to-moderate gum disease. Specialist dental treatments may be needed for severe gum disease.


Scale and polish – To remove plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) that can build up on your teeth, your dentist may suggest that you have your teeth scaled and polished. This is a ‘professional clean’ carried out by a dental hygienist.

The dental hygienist will scrape away plaque and tartar from your teeth using a special instrument, then polish your teeth to remove marks or stains. If a lot of plaque or tartar has built up you may need to have more than one scale and polish.

Root planning (debridement) – In some cases of gum disease or periodontitis, root planing (debridement) may be required. This is a deep clean under the gums that gets rid of bacteria from the roots of your teeth. Before having the treatment, you may need to have an anaesthetic (painkilling medication) to numb the area. You may experience some pain and discomfort for up to 48 hours after having root planing.

Further treatment  – If you have severe gum disease, you may need further treatment, such as periodontal surgery. In some cases, it is necessary to  remove the affected tooth. Your dentist will be able to tell you about the procedure needed and how it is carried out. If necessary, they will also be able to refer you to a specialist.


The best way to treat all gum disease is to practice good oral hygiene.

Good oral hygiene involves:

– brushing your teeth for 2 minutes twice a day (in the morning and at night)

– using toothpaste that contains fluoride

– cleaning in-between your teeth regularly (eg flossing)

– not smoking

– regularly visiting your dentist & dental hygienist

Good oral hygiene can usually prevent gum disease, and treat mild-to-moderate gum disease.

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