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Gum Disease

Are you worried that gum disease spells the end for your teeth and that dentures are inevitable?

Maybe you are just concerned that you may have gum disease ( also called periodontal disease) and are looking for some more information.

At King Street Dental Practice we take gum disease seriously. We know that by working with you to provide the right advice, care and support most patients can get to grips with their gum problems. We are dedicated to treating and preventing this condition and have been successfully helping patients to beat their gum disease for more than 14 years.

So if you are suffering from bleeding gums, periodontal disease or just feel the need to be seen in a practice with an active team of dental hygienists we have the knowledge, experience and skills to help you, why not book an appointment for an assessment with one of our dentists now?

What is gum disease?

Gum disease, or periodontal disease as it is more correctly known, starts as gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums around the teeth, often characterised by tenderness, redness and bleeding during brushing. If untreated, it may develop into periodontal disease, which is a chronic, degenerative disease of the gums, characterised by further gum inflammation, bad breath, discharge of pus and loosening of the teeth. As inflammation progresses, the gums recede from the teeth allowing deeper tissues -the collagen, ligaments and bone supporting the teeth – to become affected. This is periodontitis. As it becomes more advanced, deep pockets form between the teeth and the surrounding tissue, abscesses develop under the roots of the teeth, bone loss continues and teeth may fall out. In adults over the age of thirty, more teeth are lost from periodontal disease than from tooth decay. In addition to causing pain, general malaise, fatigue and bad breath, periodontal disease is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, respiratory disease and nutritional deficiencies.

The initiating factor in gum disease is plaque which constantly builds up on your teeth. Your dentist or hygienist can clean your teeth to remove plaque and smooth your teeth to help prevent the build up of plaque, but controlling gum disease is up to you with proper homecare including cleaning all surfaces of your teeth (particularly at and below the gum line) and diet.

Where does this fit in?

Perhaps the biggest factor in the build-up of plaque is sugar (and to a lesser extent other refined carbohydrates) in the diet. These foods create acidic conditions in the mouth that are ideal for the proliferation of plaque-forming bacteria. Just as importantly, sugar consumption depresses the immune system, particularly by inhibiting the action of neutrophils. Because large amounts of B vitamins are used up in sugar metabolism, a diet high in sugar and low in whole foods can lead to deficiencies in these vitamins, which are necessary for healing. Recent studies at the University of Buffalo Periodontal Disease Centre, New York State, USA, have shown that alcohol is a factor in gum disease. Increasing alcohol consumption from 5 units to 20 units a week increases the risk of periodontal disease from 10% to 40%. It is thought that alcohol may inhibit blood clotting, suppress new bone formation and reduce levels of B vitamins. Alcohol dehydrates the mouth, so that bacteria are not washed away so readily by saliva, and plaque formation occurs faster.

Nutritional Therapy for gum disease

In general terms, the diet that provides for good gum health is no different from that which provides for optimal health of the whole body. It should be nutrient-rich and based on fresh natural foods, whole grains, vegetables, fruit, fish, beans and seeds. It should be low in sugar, refined carbohydrates, salt and alcohol and should avoid damaged fats, artificial additives and allergenic foods. Foods that are high in bioflavonoids, such as blue-black fruits, onions, citrus pith and hawthorn berries should be included as these compounds are important in maintaining healthy collagen structure. A diet that is high in fibre may protect against gum disease by promoting the secretion of saliva.

Tooth Decay

The aim of prevention is to control the 8 factors that work together to cause tooth decay. Once a tooth has decay, there is no going back, it has to be attended to. The sooner, the better. Left unattended, decayed areas increase in size and destroy more of your tooth.

You may wonder why every so often a dentist has recommended a filling to you. Some people get more tooth decay and fillings than others and wonder why this is. The simple truth is that drilling out the decay in a tooth and placing a white filling or a metal filling is not treating the real cause of the problem. Unless you get rid of the causes of tooth decay and not just the symptoms this process will be repeated in future again and again.

Tooth Decay Causes

We can tell you that tooth decay is seldom anything to do with "Soft teeth." The real causes of tooth decay are well known and documented, the aim of our dental practice is to work with you to help you understand what causes tooth decay.

Once you know this you can then choose, if you so wish to avoid the stress and expense of repeated rounds of fillings by treating tooth decay once and for all.


If you put sugar in your tea or coffee, you could be doing great harm to your teeth and gums. The amount of sugar doesn't matter. It's the frequency of sugar which is the problem, creating an acidic environment the harmful bugs love. If you substitute the sugar with xylitol, you eliminate this problem and help to eliminate the bacteria which cause the decay and gum disease.


The first thing to realize about toothpaste is that it is a medicine. It is so commonly bought and used that it is difficult to realize this. However all toothpastes are designed to clean your teeth to prevent the 2 commonest diseases in the country (gum disease and dental decay). It is therefore a medicine.

As with many medicines such as painkillers and antihistamines, there are a vast variety of toothpastes you can buy – and a few that are only available on prescription. Hopefully this article will help you when you next come face to face with the toothpastes in your local chemist’s or supermarket.

So what's in toothpaste?

Things have come on a long way since tree bark, salt, baking soda or soot from the fireplace were used with the finger, old rag or cloth to clean teeth. The stuff you squeeze out of a tube is highly researched and developed.

Basically toothpaste contains detergent and fine gritty particles which remove food debris and disrupt the film of plaque which constantly builds up on your teeth before it gets a chance to cause damage to your teeth and gums. Added to this is a foaming agent, colouring and flavourings to make it more acceptable and marketable

Since 1914 fluoride has been added to toothpastes to help in the fight against decay. This has been almost commonplace in toothpastes since about 1970, although there are still some unfluoridated toothpastes available.

The main differences in various modern fluoride toothpastes lie in four areas:

  • Anti-sensitivity
  • Whitening
  • Plaque/tartar control
  • Resurfacing

Anti Sensitivity

The likes of Sensodyne (with potassium nitrate) and Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief (Arginine) have added ingredients which are designed to block minute pores in parts of your teeth which can be exposed at gum level and prevent the momentary pain hot and cold things can cause. As well as toothpaste, they can be effective by merely placing on the affected part of your tooth last thing at night, like an ointment, without rinsing it off.


A number of toothpastes claim to “whiten” teeth. The only way to do this is to have your teeth professionally whitened using tooth-bleaching agents and techniques. However these toothpastes do contain chemical agents which will dissolve stains which have become engrained onto the surface of your teeth. In general the more expensive the “whitening” toothpaste, the more chemicals it has to dissolve more stains. The older “smokers” toothpastes and powders are very abrasive and damage teeth. These appeared to whiten teeth by scratching away at the enamel surface and should be avoided.

Plaque/Tartar Control

Chemicals called “pyrophosphates” (e.g. sodium pyrophosphate) are added to some toothpastes as they have some benefit in preventing plaque build-up on teeth and therefore can play a, limited, part in helping to prevent gum disease and decay. In toothpaste and dental floss, sodium pyrophosphate acts as a tartar control agent, serving to remove calcium and magnesium from saliva and thus preventing them from being deposited on teeth.

The addition of triclosan to toothpaste is designed to inhibit bacterial metabolism within plaque. Its effect has been shown to last for approximately 8 hours after brushing. However, and despite animal studies which have shown it to have a negative effect on muscle strength, American and European agencies declaring triclosan safe at the levels manufacturers place in their products.

Despite these chemicals, the most important factor, by far, in plaque control is proper brushing and cleaning between the teeth.


In recent years there have been many toothpastes which claim to “resurface” teeth. The science behind this is that the added microscopic particles calcium, phosphate and carbonate in the toothpaste penetrated minor flaws in the tooth surface, where they bond with the natural structure of the tooth enamel. This, it is claimed, makes the tooth surface smoother and less likely to decay or allow plaque to stick. The other benefit is that such “repairing” minerals will bond to the tooth and help to reduce sensitivity. Fluoride helps in this remineralising process.

Again the benefits of such toothpaste are small in comparison to the importance of proper cleaning. These toothpastes include “Pronamel” and “Repair and Protect”.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate

This is added to many personal care products, including many toothpastes, as a detergent. There is some controversy over its possible toxic effects, but it is reckoned to be safe at the levels it is found in toothpastes and shampoos, etc. (Otherwise it would not be used.) You can read all the debate about it – as with most things – on the internet.

If you are concerned about sodium lauryl sulphate, there are alternative toothpastes. (E.g. Biotene, sensodyne, and Tom's)

Natural/Herbal Toothpastes

There are a large number of herbal toothpastes which are becoming increasingly popular for a variety of reasons. For example some people are concerned or even sensitive to some ingredients in regular toothpastes. They also appeal to those who are concerned about the environment. Many of these have flavourings other than the mint some people do not like in most available toothpastes.

Some of these natural toothpastes are even fluoride-free. However no dentist would recommend using a fluoride-free toothpaste. I shall write a piece on fluoride soon, which will show the 5 beneficial ways in which fluoride helps to prevent dental decay. For example there is a range of toothpastes made by Kingfisher and Tom’s of Maine Anticavity Toothpaste Children Strawberry.

As I wrote at the top of this article, toothpaste is a medicine. In the last 2 years dentists have been able to prescribe toothpaste with higher concentrations of fluoride, than can be bought over the counter, to their patients whom they assess as having higher than average risk of decay.