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What is Gum Disease?

Gum disease describes the inflammation of the gums as a result of bacterial growth. This bacterial growth is caused by a build-up of plaque that has not been removed by thorough daily brushing and flossing. This plaque forms tartar, or calculus, and bacterial growth, which destroys the tissue that surrounds and supports your teeth. If left untreated, it can eventually infect the bone that supports your teeth, causing teeth to become loose and even fall out.

Gum Disease Stages

Gum Disease Stages

Gum disease is easily prevented and treated if detected early. If ignored, gum disease can lead to more serious health issues. Beyond causing painful, swollen, bleeding gums and bad breath, if left untreated, periodontal disease can result in irreversible bone damage and tooth loss.

How Does Gum Disease Start?

Gum disease begins when plaque is not properly removed each day with good oral hygiene practices. This plaque build-up turns to tartar, promoting a bacterial infection. This early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. While some people with gingivitis may not notice any significant changes or obvious symptoms, common signs include sore, swollen gums that bleed during brushing and flossing. You may not be aware that you have gum disease initially because there is often no pain.

The infection of the gums breaks down the gum tissue, and if left untreated, it can lead to a more serious infection that spreads to the bone.

What Causes Gum Disease?

The main cause of gum disease is bacterial plaque. As plaque constantly forms on your teeth each day, it is important that you thoroughly brush and floss your teeth daily in order to remove it. If you don’t, it can build up and cause infection. Other factors that can affect the health of your gums include:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Diseases such as diabetes
  • Medication such as steroids, some types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives
  • Poorly fitted bridges
  • Crooked teeth
  • Defective fillings
  • Pregnancy or use of oral contraceptives
  • Clenching or grinding your teeth
  • Poor nutrition

What Are the Stages of Gum Disease?

Gum disease exists in two key stages:

  1. Gingivitis
  2. Periodontitis


Gingivitis refers to the inflammation of the gums caused by a build-up of plaque along the gum line and is the more mild form of gum disease. Symptoms for gingivitis include:

  • Sore gums
  • Soft gums
  • Swollen gums
  • Gums that bleed easily

At this stage, the bone structure surrounding and supporting the teeth is not affected.

The first sign of gingivitis is having blood on your toothbrush or dental floss. Many people ask "how can I prevent damage caused by gingivitis?" The damage of gingivitis can actually be prevented and reversed with:

  1. Daily thorough brushing and flossing
  2. General good oral hygiene

If it is ignored, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontitis occurs when the inflammation and infection of the gum tissue spreads to the ligaments and bones that surround and support the teeth. This results in shifting or loose teeth that may eventually fall out on their own, or need to be removed by a dentist.

Common signs of periodontitis include:

  1. Receding gums or pockets between the teeth and gums
  2. Pain while biting

While the damage of periodontal disease cannot be reversed, you can help prevent further damage with daily brushing and flossing and by visiting your smile.com.au approved dentist.

Is Gum Disease Curable?

Stage one of gum disease (gingivitis) is certainly curable. Visiting the dentist every six months and practicing good oral hygiene are both vital in treating gingivitis and ensuring that it doesn’t return. If left untreated, gingivitis may progress into stage two gum disease (periodontitis).

Periodontitis occurs when gum disease spreads into the surrounding ligaments and bone. The symptoms of periodontitis are certainly manageable through good oral hygiene and regular visits to a dentist or, depending on the severity of your gum disease, a periodontist. However, periodontal disease can never be completely cured.

Is the Damage Caused by Gum Disease Reversible?

If caught early, the damage caused by gum disease can be reversed with three steps:

  1. Visit the dentist regularly for professional cleanings
  2. Brush twice daily
  3. Floss regularly

Antimicrobial mouthwashes may also help to keep the mouth free from plaque and other bacteria that contribute to the development of gum disease. However, if gum disease progresses, the damage is not always reversible. If not treated, advanced periodontitis can result in:

  • Gum recession
  • Loose teeth
  • Bone loss

While there are a number of treatments that a dentist can perform to help manage these symptoms, prevent them from worsening, and repair some of the damage, very advanced periodontal disease can cause irreversible damage.

How Do I Know If I Have Gum Disease?

Infection and inflammation can progress without pain or noticeable symptoms. This is why regular visits to your smile.com.au approved dentist are necessary to maintain good oral health and avoid disease.

While the symptoms of gum disease can be subtle, the condition itself has warning signs. Visit a smile.com.au approved dentist immediately if you notice any of the following signs of gum disease:

  • Blood on toothbrush or dental floss
  • Red, tender or swollen gums
  • Receding gums
  • Constant bad breath
  • Pus between your teeth and gums
  • Loose teeth
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • A change in the fit of partial dentures

Even if you are not experiencing any obvious symptoms, you may still have some form of gum disease. Only a professional dentist can recognise and determine the progression of gum disease.

How Can I Treat Gum Disease At Home?

Many people ask "How do I treat gum disease at home?" While only a dentist can properly treat the infection, there are a number of things that you can do at home to manage the symptoms of gum disease, including:

  • Flossing after each meal
  • Brushing twice a day with a toothpaste designed to combat gingivitis
  • Using a microbial mouthwash as directed
  • Avoiding foods that are likely to cause a build-up of plaque, such as sticky lollies or soft drink

The best way to manage gum disease at home is by following the advice of your smile.com.au approved dentist and ensuring that you visit regularly for professional cleanings.

What Professional Gum Disease Treatments are Available?

There are several different professional gum disease treatments available, including:

  • Scaling and root planing
  • Curettage
  • Flap surgery
  • Bone grafts
  • Soft tissue grafts
  • Guided tissue regeneration
  • Bone (osseous) surgery
  • Medication

The purpose of gum disease treatment is to control the existing infection and to halt the development of the disease. While correct oral hygiene and healthy eating are home care options, the only way to cure gum disease is to see a professional dentist. Your smile.com.au approved dentist can treat the bacteria and restore supportive tissues if there is more serious damage.

It is important to have regular check-ups to assess the health of your teeth and gums. At your check-up, your smile.com.au approved dentist will examine the plaque and tartar on your teeth and gums. If you are showing symptoms of gingivitis, your dentist might suggest that you return for cleanings more frequently than every 6 months.

Scaling and Root Planing Procedure

If your dentist concludes that there is some bone loss or that your gums are receding, your dentist may recommend a very common, rigorous, deep-cleaning and non-surgical method known as scaling and root planing (SRP).

Scaling treatment involves scraping the plaque and tartar away from below and above the gum line. Root planing treatment smooths uneven spots on the tooth root where bacteria accumulates. This smooth and clean surface assists the gums in reattaching to the teeth.

The benefits of scaling and root planing treatment include:

  • Stops gum disease becoming worse
  • Prevents tooth loss
  • Nips tooth decay in the bud
  • Protects the roots of your teeth
  • Reduces bad breath

Curettage Procedure

The dental treatment called curettage consists of scraping away unhealthy gum tissue from the infected area and then allowing it to heal. It uses a small hand held tool called a curette. Antibiotics may be prescribed following treatment.

There are two types of curettage:

  1. Gingival curettage
  2. Subgingival curettage

Flap Surgery Procedure

Gingival flap surgery is a procedure that allows your smile.com.au approved dentist to reach the root of your tooth and bone. Flap surgery is recommended for people who experience mild to advanced periodontitis. Flap surgery is usually performed if a non-surgical treatment, such as scaling and root planing, is ineffective at removing the gum infection.

The procedure for flap surgery is two-fold:

  1. Your smile.com.au approved dentist will lift the gums away and remove the tartar as needed.
  2. They will then sew the gums back in position so the tissue fits firmly around the teeth.

This procedure also decreases the size of the pocket, giving bacteria less room to grow back.

You may experience some discomfort following flap surgery treatment, which can often be alleviated with over-the-counter pain relief medication. You may also experience minimal bleeding and swelling, however this can be reduced by applying an icepack to the swollen area. Your smile.com.au dentist may prescribe antibiotics to avoid the possibility of an infection.

Bone Grafts Procedure

If your bone has been damaged due to periodontitis, bone grafts will be used to replace it. For a bone graft procedure, small pieces of bone (either your own, donated or synthetic) will be positioned where the original bone was eroded. These grafts work as a platform for the bone to regrow from as well as restoring stability to your teeth.

Successful bone grafts can also reinforce the strength of your jaw bone so it can support a dental implant.

While bone grafting is a routine procedure, there are risks with any procedure. For bone grafting treatment, these risks may include:

  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Blood clots
  • Damaged nerves
  • Complications from anaesthesia

It is important to consult with a smile.com.au approved dentist and discuss your medical history, the potential risks of the procedure, and what you want to achieve with the procedure before starting any treatment. This is to ensure that you are a good candidate for a bone grafting procedure.

Soft Tissue Grafts Procedure

Soft tissue grafts can be used to fill in gaps where gums have receded or to strengthen the gums. Grafted tissue is generally removed from the roof of the mouth and then stitched over the affected area. Soft tissue grafting, in addition with deep cleaning procedures, can halt the rapid destruction of soft tissue caused by periodontal disease. In fact, soft tissue grafting can prevent tissue and bone loss while protecting exposed teeth roots.

There are three different types of common soft tissue grafts:

  1. Free gingival graft
  2. Connective tissue graft
  3. Pedicle graft

A free gingival graft is often used to thicken existing tissue whereas a connective tissue graft is commonly used to address root exposure.

The leading causes of gum recession include:

  • Periodontal disease
  • Trauma
  • Aging
  • Over brushing

Once the roots of your teeth are exposed, you may experience heightened sensitivity and discomfort when you have hot or cold food and beverages.

Benefits of soft tissue grafts include:

  • Increased comfort
  • Enhanced confidence
  • Improved aesthetics
  • Improved gum and overall oral health

Guided Tissue Regeneration Procedure

Guided tissue regeneration treatment works by stimulating gum tissue and bone growth. The procedure is performed along with flap surgery, where a little piece of mesh-like fabric is placed in between the gum tissue and the bone. This prevents the gum tissue from growing into the space where the bone needs to be, allowing the bone and its connecting tissue to grow back and properly support the teeth.

You may not be a candidate for guided tissue regeneration if you:

  • Frequently smoke
  • Have poor oral hygiene
  • Have multiple sites of bone or tissue defects

As with any procedure, there are potential risks that can arise, including:

  • Infection
  • Hypersensitive teeth

Bone (Osseous) Surgery Procedure

Bone (osseous) surgery involves reshaping the jawbone underneath the gum. Osseous means bone.

Advanced or moderate bone loss can often cause shallow craters in the bone. Bone (osseous) surgery smooths these craters by reshaping the tooth after flap surgery, making it more difficult for bacteria to accumulate and grow. Bone surgery stops periodontal disease before it progresses and results in bone or teeth loss.

There are several goals for osseous surgery, including:

  • Reducing the spread of bacteria
  • Preventing bone loss
  • Enhancing confidence and improving self-esteem
  • Improved smile

While this is a surgical procedure, it is unusual to experience severe pain following bone surgery. It is important to follow any post-operative care instructions and maintain proper oral hygiene to decrease the chance of having serious health problems associated with gum disease.


Your smile.com.au approved dentist may prescribe you medications in pill form to assist in killing the bacteria that cause gum disease. They might also prescribe:

  • Antibiotic gels, fibres and chips to be directly applied to the infected area
  • An anti-germ mouth rinse containing the chemical chlorhexidine that controls plaque and gingivitis

Your smile.com.au approved dentist will determine which treatment method is most suitable for your circumstances.

Is Treating Gum Disease Painful?

No, while some gum disease treatments may be uncomfortable, they should not be particularly painful. If you need to undergo periodontal treatments such as root planing, your dentist may administer a topical or local anaesthetic to numb the area to prevent discomfort.

If you are concerned about the pain involved with the procedure, do not hesitate to ask your smile.com.au approved practice what can be done to minimise any pain and put your mind at ease.

How Long Does it Take to Treat Gum Disease?

The length of time needed for treatment depends on a number of factors, including the progression and severity of infection, the particular treatment being performed, and your commitment to good oral care at home.

Symptoms of early gum disease or gingivitis may subside in as little as two weeks with proper care, while patients with advanced periodontitis may have to continue to see a dentist for regular professional cleans for quite some time. Your dentist may use local anaesthesia, pain medication, or sedation dentistry to alleviate discomfort.

How Much Does Gum Disease Treatment Cost?

The cost of gum disease treatment is dependent on your individual circumstances. The severity of your gum disease will determine which treatment method is required.

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Gum Disease Treatment Cost Comparison

Select State:

Item No.

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Regular patients pay

Example smile.com.au fees
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with smile.com.au dental cover, that's a saving of !

Source: ADA annual dental survey conducted in October 2016.

This example is a guide only. Your personal situation should be discussed with your approved dentist.

*This fee will be reduced by 15% off the practice’s regular fee.

How Long Does it Take to Recover from Gum Disease Treatment?

If your dentist has administered an anaesthetic during your treatment, your mouth may remain numb for several hours, so it is best to avoid chewing around the treated area to avoid damage to the lips, tongue and cheek.

If you have opted to receive sedation dentistry, you will need to take the rest of the day to recuperate. You may also need someone to drive you home following your appointment.

How is Gum Disease Diagnosed?

Gum disease can be diagnosed through a periodontal exam with your smile.com.au approved dentist. During this examination, your gums will be checked for:

  • Swelling
  • Bleeding
  • Firmness

Your teeth will be checked for:

  • Sensitivity
  • Movement

The bone supporting your teeth will also be examined with x-rays.

A periodontal probe will determine the progress of your gum disease. The probe is gently inserted into the gums and pockets surrounding the teeth to measure the depth of the pocket. Deeper pockets indicate greater severity.

The pockets should be less than 3 millimetres deep in healthy gums, with gums tight against the teeth with pink tips. Pockets measuring 3 millimetres to 5 millimetres usually indicate disease. Tartar could be spreading below the gum line and there may be some bone loss. Pockets measuring 5 millimetres or more often reveal a serious condition likely including receding gums and a larger amount of bone loss.

After the evaluation, your smile.com.au approved dentist or periodontist will make treatment recommendations. Treatment for gum disease varies depending on the severity of the disease.

Do I Need To Treat My Gum Disease?

Yes, you do need to treat gum disease. If left untreated, gum disease can have serious consequences, both on your oral and overall health. If you choose to avoid treatment and allow your gum disease to progress, there is a chance that you will lose your teeth. The infection dissolves the bone that is supporting your teeth and the teeth eventually come lose and fall out. Gum disease can also lead to more serious problems in other parts of the body if left untreated.

Can Gum Disease Lead to Other Health Problems?

There is a strong link between poor oral hygiene and poor overall health. As the mouth is the gateway to the rest of the body, disease and infection can spread rapidly if not treated. The bacteria that causes gum disease can enter the blood stream and travel through the entire body. This can lead to health issues such as:

  • Lung infections in people with chronic lung diseases
  • A weakened immune system
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Infective endocarditis
  • Diabetes
  • Spontaneous pre-term births
  • Low birth weights
  • Osteoporosis
  • Dementia
  • Stroke

These serious health problems can be avoided if you treat your gum disease and eliminate the progress of the infection. With smile.com.au dental cover you can save on the regular oral health care that you need with a professional dentist. With no waiting periods, you can join smile.com.au today and benefit straight away!

What Are the Benefits of Gum Disease Treatment?

The benefits of receiving professional dental treatment for your gum disease include:

  • Eliminating painful symptoms
  • Eliminating unsightly swelling and discolouration
  • Reducing or eliminating loose teeth
  • Reducing bad breath
  • Promoting healthy teeth and gums
  • Reducing bacteria within infected gum tissue and the blood stream
  • Decreasing the risk of bone loss
  • Enhancing the appearance of your smile
  • Improving your overall health
  • Enhancing your quality of life

If you are experiencing gum disease, don’t wait any longer to seek the dental treatment you need.

Can Scaling Damage Your Teeth?

No, scaling will not permanently damage your teeth. There are minimal side effects and risks associated with scaling treatment. Following scaling treatment, you may experience dental hypersensitivity and swollen or tender gums. It is important to visit a professional dentist for your scaling treatment, as inadequate teeth scaling can loosen teeth and expose tooth roots, which results in bleeding gums.

Are There Any Potential Risks With Scaling and Root Planing?

There are potential risks associated with scaling and root planing, like any dental treatment. To minimise the possibility of side effects, it is important to have scaling and root planing treatment performed by a professional dentist.

Potential risks of scaling and root planing treatment include:

  • Reaction to medication
  • Reaction to local anaesthesia
  • Bleeding
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Infection
  • Increased dental hypersensitivity
  • Aesthetic changes due to gum recession
  • Exposed root surfaces due to gum recession
  • Tooth mobility
  • Tooth loss

The biggest risk of root planing and scaling treatment is not having it done when you need it. If you are experiencing any symptoms of periodontal disease, it is important to visit a smile.com.au approved dentist for a consultation. Root planing and scaling can be very effective at addressing the initial stages of gum disease.

You can alleviate any discomfort around the operated area by using a reusable ice bag or frozen vegetable bag to help with swelling. Swelling mainly occurs in the morning and for three days following surgery. To minimise swelling, try to avoid sleeping on the side that was operated on.

Your smile.com.au approved dentist may be able to provide recommendation or medications to relieve discomfort if you experience dental hypersensitivity.

What Can I Eat After Scaling And Root Planing?

Many people ask "What can I eat after scaling and root planing?" First of all, it is important you don’t eat until the anaesthesia has completely worn off. Once it has worn off, it is best to start eating soft foods, such as:

  • Pasta
  • Soup
  • Scrambled Eggs
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Smoothies

You should avoid hard, acidic, brittle, and highly seasoned foods, including:

  • Nuts
  • Ice cubes
  • Popcorn
  • Chips

It is also recommended to avoid smoking following scaling and root planing treatment for one to two weeks.

Is Scaling and Root Planing Necessary?

Scaling and root planing is often a necessary treatment to stop gum disease progressing further. Your smile.com.au approved dentist will assess the condition of your gums, the amount of calculus on your teeth, the depth of the periodontal pockets, and the stage of gum disease to determine whether you are a good candidate for this treatment.

What Do Dentists Do During Root Planing and Scaling Treatment?

Scaling involves removing calculus and plaque attached to the tooth both above the gum line and below. This treatment is normally performed with an ultrasonic scaling tool and hand scalers. During scaling treatment, superficial stains can also be removed to enhance the overall look of your smile.

Root planing eliminates infected cementum and surface dentin that are full of dangerous toxins, tartar, and microorganisms. Root planing creates a completely smooth surface on your tooth, which in turns helps prevent future bacteria issues and promotes healing. Your smile.com.au approved dentist may use local anaesthesia to alleviate pain and discomfort during this procedure. If you do experience dental anxiety, your smile.com.au approved dentist may be able to offer sedation dentistry as another alternative.

What Is the Difference between Scaling and Root Planing?

Scaling and root planing are different processes. Scaling involves removing dental tartar, calculus, and plaque from the tooth surface. Root planing involves smoothing root surfaces and removing the gum infection.

How Can I Prevent Gum Disease?

You can prevent gum disease by taking proper care of your teeth and following good oral hygiene practices. You should:

  • Brush twice daily for 3 minutes and floss every day. Your smile.com.au approved dentist can teach you the correct techniques for brushing and flossing
  • Always use a toothpaste containing fluoride. Daily mouth rinses that contain fluoride are also recommended
  • Choose a toothbrush with bristles that are soft and polished. These have a lower chance of irritating or injuring the gum tissue
  • Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months
  • Eat healthily, avoiding high-sugar snacks and junk food whenever possible
  • Avoid smoking. Cigarettes (as well as chewing tobacco) irritate the mouth and are very bad for the health of your teeth and gums

Good oral hygiene and dental care are crucial for keeping your mouth healthy. Visit your smile.com.au approved dentist for routine care, especially cleaning, at least twice a year. Your dentist can remove hardened plaque and any tartar that you're missing with brushing and flossing alone.

Gum disease will not go away by itself or simply by improving your at-home care. The only way to remove plaque deep under the gums is with professional cleaning. Once you have had a gum problem, you will always be susceptible to recurring problems, so be sure to see your dentist on a regular basis, every three to four months, unless they recommend otherwise.

Are There Any Alternative Options for Treating Gum Disease?

Treatment at home through proper brushing and flossing are important to remove plaque from the teeth and gums. While brushing assists to eliminate plaque on the surface of the teeth, flossing helps to remove plaque from between the teeth and beneath the gum line. Used regularly as a part of your daily oral health care regime, brushing and flossing can help to prevent and decrease the symptoms of gum disease.

While at home care is important for removing bacteria and reducing the risk of gum disease, gum disease can only be cured by a professional dentist.

Get Your Gum Disease Treatment with smile.com.au

For quality and affordable dental cover, join smile.com.au and choose a smile.com.au approved dentist. Join online or call us today on 1300 238 648.

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