What is gum disease?

If your gums bleed when you brush, there is a high chance you could be suffering from gum disease. Gum disease, also referred to as periodontal disease, is an inflammatory condition of the gums that also affects the bone support structure surrounding the teeth. There are two main types of gum disease – gingivitis and periodontitis. If left untreated this preventable disease can result in bad breath, bleeding gums, and tooth loss.



Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gum where it meets the crown of the tooth. It occurs in areas where food and plaque have been allowed to build up, causing harmful toxins to be released. Symptoms of gingivitis include irritated or red gums that may bleed when brushing or flossing. Gingivitis can affect patients of any age, but is usually reversible with proper dental care.



If gingivitis goes unchecked it will progress to periodontitis, which can lead to tooth loss. Periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss globally. It begins within a week of not brushing and flossing your teeth properly. It is the first visible sign of the destructive effects of the bacteria present in plaque. Symptoms include red, swollen and bleeding gums. Periodontitis is easily reversed in the early stages with effective oral hygiene.


Usually, the best way to treat gum disease is to maintain excellent oral hygiene. This prevents the buildup of plaque and the release of toxins.

  • Plaque is colourless, making it hard to spot. However, by using a disclosing tablet (available at your local pharmacy) you can temporarily stain it red or blue, making it easy to identify the problem areas where plaque has built up. This a great exercise to do with children, as it demonstrates the invisible bacteria that can be present in the mouth and helps them learn how to tackle it.
  • Eat a balanced diet. Refined sugars (present in candy, soft drinks, and processed foods) should be kept to a minimum. Bacteria present in the mouth digests refined sugar and produces acid, which, when combined with saliva, allows for the buildup of plaque.
  • Avoid soft drinks, as they increase the acidity of the mouth, creating the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive.
  • You need to brush your teeth at least twice a day for a minimum of 2 minutes each time. Be sure to brush every part of the tooth – the inner side, the outer side, and the chewing surface and change your brushing pattern regularly to ensure you get to all those hard-to-reach areas.
  • Use interdental brushes to clean between the teeth.
  • Floss at least once a day.


Even those who brush regularly could be at risk of developing gum disease if their technique is not adequate, so the key is to catch the problem early. You can use the Toothpic app to assess your technique and check your gums.

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