Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is inflammation of the gums by bacteria.
Early stage disease is called gingivitis, and is usually easy to treat with good oral hygiene. If left untreated, the disease can become worse and cause permanent damage to gums and teeth. This advanced stage of disease is called periodontitis, and is a major cause of tooth loss.
What causes gum disease?
Periodontal disease can develop if you don't brush and floss your teeth properly to remove plaque. It's more likely to occur if you smoke, if you aren't getting enough nutrition in your diet, during pregnancy, or if you have certain health conditions such as diabetes or a weakened immune system. 
Age is also a risk factor for gum disease, with a little more than half of Australians over the age of 65 affected.  Taking good care of your gums is important, even if you have dentures, as this disease could increase your risk of developing other serious health problems, such as heart disease or stroke.
What are the symptoms?
Here are 5 warning signs that could indicate you may have gingivitis or periodontitis, however symptoms are not always visible, which is why it's important to have regular dental check-ups.
1. Red, swollen or itchy gums
Healthy gums should be pink and not tender to the touch. Redness, swelling or discomfort in your gums could be signs that bacteria is present.
2. Bleeding gums
If your gums bleed when you brush or floss your teeth, this could be an indication that you may be brushing or flossing too abrasively, but it could also be a sign of gingivitis. Your dentist can help determine what the cause is, and what is the right treatment for you. Your dentist can also demonstrate good brushing and flossing techniques, and may recommend a special toothbrush or toothpaste made for sensitive teeth and gums.
3. Bad breath
Persistent bad breath that won't go away can be a sign of periodontitis, especially if you also have an unpleasant taste in your mouth. You should see your dentist as soon as possible for diagnosis and to discuss treatment options.
4. Receding gums
Receding gums are not a normal part of ageing. Periodontal disease is the most common cause of gum recession, which can expose the roots of your teeth to bacteria and plaque and lead to loose teeth.
5. Loose teeth
If your teeth feel loose, hurt when you bite down or don't fit together like they used to, bacteria may have already started to damage their roots and support structures below your gums. You should talk to your dentist immediately to discuss treatments.
Can gum disease be treated?
Gingivitis can usually be treated with an appropriate brushing and flossing routine, giving up smoking, and lowering your sugar intake. Your dentist may also recommend rinsing your mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash.
During your regular check-up and clean appointment, your dentist can remove plaque from your teeth (a process called scaling) and apply fluoride to help prevent further plaque build-up.
If you have more advanced periodontal disease, your dentist may suggest other treatments such as deep cleaning beneath the gums (root planing) or even oral surgery to remove plaque pockets from inside the gums. Your dentist will make sure you understand what these treatments involve and any associated risks.
Talk to our dentists in Sydney CBD
If you're worried about your teeth or gums, or it's time for your regular check-up, contact our friendly team at Sydney CBD Dental.
 Oral Health Foundation. Gum disease [Online] 2018 [Accessed May 2018] Available from: https://www.dentalhealth.org/gum-disease
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Oral health and dental care in Australia: key facts and figures 2015 [Online] 2016 [Accessed May 2018] Available from: https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/dental-oral-health/oral-health-and-dental-care-in-australia-key-facts-and-figures-2015/contents/table-of-contents