According to some estimates, as many as 75 per cent of adults over the age of 30 may have some form of gum disease.

Gum disease begins with the formation of soft and hard deposits on the surface of the teeth. Over time, a build-up of bacteria called biofilm (plaque) collects at the gum line, eventually hardening on the teeth into calcium deposits called calculus (tartar). Plaque and calculus do not have to be evident to the naked eye for gum disease to be present. You need regular examinations by your dental health professional to assess the health of your gums and supporting bone.

Without proper oral care, the bacteria can cause inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), penetrate the gum line and eventually spread into the underlying bone (periodontitis).

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums, causing them to be sore, bleed easily and appear puffy, soft and swollen. Blood on the toothbrush or dental floss is one of the earliest and most common signs of gingivitis. The good news is this is preventable and reversible with thorough brushing and flossing techniques. However, if oral hygiene habits are poor, gingivitis may progress to periodontitis.

Periodontal disease involves the destruction of bone and other supporting structures. Unfortunately this damage is permanent, but can be halted with proper oral care and regular dental visits. If unchecked, periodontal disease can lead to complete destruction of the tooth’s supporting tissues, abscesses and, ultimately, loss of the tooth.

Adult gum disease is usually not painful. It can progress slowly. You may not even be aware of it until the advanced stages, when the tooth is in danger of being lost. It is important to have regular checkups based on your personal needs and as recommended by your dental health professional. Your dental hygienist can detect the early stages of gum disease, when it is the easiest to treat.