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Periodontal disease is the No.1 cause of tooth loss amongst adults.  This is because a certain number of people (15-20%) have immune systems that overreact to the bad bacteria in their mouths.  When this overreaction occurs, the immune system attacks and breaks down the bone and tissue that surround the tooth.  This destruction is not predictable and can occur sporadically.  None of us knows if we are part of this 15-20% because we can’t usually feel or notice the onset of gum and bone (periodontal) disease.  Both adults and children should be routinely checked for gum disease.

Keep in mind that healthy gums DON’T BLEED.  You are the key player on the hygiene team. If you don’t do the essential daily brushing and flossing, the rest of your dental team (the dentist and hygienist) is playing short-handed.  And sometimes with everyone fighting the good fight, stubborn plaque and bacteria will require some new maintenance techniques for battling gum infection.


Are you living at high risk for gum disease?

Smoking:  Numerous studies have shown that smokers have more gum disease.  Smokers have increased levels of tartar in the mouth, and experience more tissue irritation, which makes their gums more susceptible to disease.  Smokers have more bone loss and heal less quickly than non-smokers.

Stress:  When our immune system is stressed it is difficult to fight off the bacteria that cause gum infections.

Dental neglect:  Avoiding the dentist is a lifestyle choice that puts you at risk of contracting diseases of the mouth, teeth and gums.  Floss or die!  Your hygienist or dentist works to prevent infection in your mouth from entering the bloodstream and reaching vital organs.

Heart disease:  Gum inflammation products and bacteria in gum disease can cause heart disease, and in some cases, double the risk of a fatal heart attack.  In addition, bacteria from your mouth may combine with blood-clotting cells called platelets, forming heart-stopping blood clots.

Stroke: New studies show that 70% of the fatty deposits of stroke sufferers contain bacteria, of which 40% comes from the mouth.
Diabetics: This group of people are more likely to have gum disease than most people and gum disease makes it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar.

Premature birth:  Pregnant women who have periodontal disease may be as much as seven times more likely to have a baby born early.  Some research suggests that gum disease may increase the level of hormones that induce labour.

Preventative dentistry

As a result of improved oral hygiene and fluoride, more people are keeping their own teeth into old age but in order to continue to maintain healthy teeth and gums, a regime of brushing and rinsing twice a day should be combined with interdental brushing – cleaning between the teeth.

The major cause of tooth decay and gum disease is plaque.  The formation of plaque is continuous and its growth cannot be stopped.  Whilst brushing controls plaque formation around the surfaces of your teeth, it does not reach between your teeth and that’s why interdental brushing once a day is so crucial.

Cleaning between your teeth is made possible by the use of the following:
  • Dental floss

  • Interdental brushes

  • Single tuft toothbrushes

  • Dental sticks

  • Rubber tip stimulators

  • Irrigation device

Consult your dentist and hygienist to learn more about the right method of interdental brushing for you.

Hygienist therapy / Scaling and polishing

During the day and night plaque builds up on your teeth and is mostly made up of bacteria.  The bacteria  feed on sugar from food and drink, producing acids as a waste product.  The acids attack the teeth by dissolving the minerals in the tooth surface.  If this happens too often a tooth may become decayed.  If it builds up too much around the gum the bacteria in it can irritate the gums, causing gum disease.  This can result in your gums becoming sore and infected (Gingivitis).  If allowed to progress further your bone can become infected and become lost from around the teeth, making them loose or even need to be removed (Periodontal disease).

Plaque left for a long time can form Tartar (also known as ‘calculus’) which in turn helps more plaque to gather and makes it harder to remove with your brush.  You can’t remove tartar just by brushing your teeth, but our hygienist can remove it using special instruments – this is known as scaling.  Our hygienist can also polish your teeth.  This removes stains from coffee, tea, cigarettes or red wine; and it makes it more difficult for plaque to stick to your teeth.  If you clean your teeth thoroughly at home, your scale and polish treatment will take less time.

The hygienists use two types of instrument for scaling:
1. Hand scalers are metal scrapers that come in different sizes and shapes, to reach different parts of the teeth.  This is why you will see the hygienist changing instruments quite often.
2. Electric scalers use a tip that vibrates very fast in a stream of water.  The water is removed from your mouth using a small suction device.  A hand scaler is also used along with an electric scaler, to check whether the teeth are completely clean.
For polishing, they will use a rotating brush or rubber polisher with a special toothpaste.
Scaling cleans above and below the gumline.  If you have gum disease, you may also need deeper scaling, around the roots of the teeth, this is called ‘root planing’.  We may give you a local anaesthetic for this.
Your dental hygienist will also tell you about the best way to clean your teeth and gums thoroughly at home.


Regular scaling and polishing by our hygienist help to keep your teeth and gums healthy by making it easier for you to keep your teeth clean at home.  You will see and feel the difference.
If your gums bleed when you brush, you may have early gum disease.  Regular scaling helps to stop the disease getting worse, and it helps you to eliminate the disease by thorough cleaning at home.
Bad breath is often caused by gum disease.  Regular scaling, and cleaning your teeth thoroughly at home, can prevent this.