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Periodontal disease or gum disease

By by Anne Swart [email protected]

Dr Anne Swart is a Dutch Dental Surgeon, working in the Algarve since 1993. She is the Clinical Director of the Medefi Clinic (Lagoa) and the SmileUp clinic (Guia shopping). In here regular column she provides readers with information of all aspects of dental care.

Approximately 75% of tooth loss in adults is caused by periodontal disease, a disease that is preventable. It is estimated that in the UK three out of four adults aged 35 and over are suffering from some level of gum disease.

With an ever increasing amount of research linking periodontal disease to conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer and cancer, it has never been more important to know how to look after your mouth.

Your dentist can assess your gum health by completing a basic periodontal exam, or a BPE. This is done by using a specialised measuring probe to measure the space between the tooth and the gum at specific points around your mouth.

The space (= pocket) between the tooth and the gum in a healthy mouth is very small (less than 4mm deep) and healthy gums will not bleed when probed.

Gum disease is caused by the accumulation of plaque on the tooth surfaces; this is a thin sticky deposit of bacteria that is constantly forming. If allowed to accumulate, the by-products released by this bacteria cause irritation to the gums and eventually damage to the surrounding tissues.

As periodontal disease progresses, the bone supporting the tooth is destroyed causing a deeper pocket between the tooth and the gum, it’s this pocket that your dentist is measuring and the results of your BPE will determine the type and frequency of treatment you will require.

Other factors affecting gum disease include smoking, stress, diabetes, hormonal changes, genetics, medication and nutrition. It is important to note that 50% of all cases of gum disease in the UK and Europe are partially caused, or aggravated by, smoking.

For some people, the diagnosis of gum disease can be a real shock as the disease has very few symptoms, many of which people assume to be normal.

In the early stages of gum disease, you may notice swelling, soreness and/or bleeding of the gums. This is known as gingivitis and is the only reversible stage of gum disease.

Symptoms include bad breath, bad taste, tender gums, bleeding, recession, mobility of teeth and eventual tooth loss.

If you are a smoker, the early symptoms may be absent; this does not mean the disease is not present and active.

Although periodontal disease is irreversible, your periodontist (=dentist specialised in gum disease) together with a hygienist can halt its  progression and help you preserve your natural teeth and restore health to your mouth.

A dental hygienist is an integral part of the dental team who is specially trained to manage and prevent gum disease and to educate you about keeping your mouth healthy.

The Medefi Clinic is a private cosmetic dentistry practice with over 15 years of experience. Our skilful team provide a range of services, including personalised partial and complete dentures, dental implants, cosmetic dentistry and dental hygiene treatments.

To contact Dr. Anne L. Swart at Multiclinica Medefi – Dental Clinic and Aesthetic Medicine Centre in Lagoa, please call (+351) 282 341 482, email [email protected] or visit