Gum disease, or gingivitis, is an extremely common form of oral infection which causes severe damage to both the teeth and the gums. If left untreated,gum disease may progress further to become what is known as periodontitis, or periodontal disease.

Gingivitis is most commonly caused by the build up of plaque of the teeth which, if not removed either by thorough brushing and flossing, or by a qualified oral hygienist, continues to pack against the gums and eventually forcing its way under the gum line, thus causing swelling and reddening of the gums and leading to the loosening of the muscles which attach the teeth to the gums. The result is that the gums become tender and painful and bleed easily, while at the same time are pushed back from their natural position where they cover and protect the dentine layer of the teeth. As dentine does not have an enamel layer to protect it from the acids which are naturally formed in the mouth to aid in digestion, as is the case of the exposed parts of teeth; bacteria begin to thrive in the area and tooth decay may result. Left unattended, the swelling and bleeding of the gums will simply get worse and worse, to a point where it becomes periodontitis. This stage is critical, as the bacteria will flourish in the unhealthy environment and will be further aided in its destructive path by food particles becoming trapped between the gums and the teeth. The result is that a bad taste in one’s mouth and halitosis, or bad breath, caused by a combination of the decomposition of the food particles, the dead blood cells and the bacteria will be the least of one’s problems. The worst result of the damage caused is that one’s teeth become loose and may be lost, as the disease progresses from the gums to the supporting bone around the teeth; and the teeth themselves decay.

Gingivitis and, in turn periodontitis, are treatable. In the early stages of the disease the complete and thorough removal of every last scrap of plaque (called scaling) must be carried out on a regular basis. An oral hygienist will do the job, but the patient must be scrupulous in cleaning at home too, by brushing carefully twice a day and the use of dental floss to clean between the teeth. Antiseptic or antibacterial mouth washes used daily with prevent the rampant growth of bacteria and keep the infected areas clean

Some natural remedies have been found to be helpful in the control and even eradication of gingivitis. 1,000 mg of Vitamin C taken daily has been proven to help, as it contains antibiotic properties. Natural cranberries – those without any added sugar – have an inherent natural compound which prevents plaque from sticking to the teeth; and grapefruit seed extract also has high levels of antibiotic properties, so a few drops a day on one’s toothbrush when brushing will help to reduce and even combat gingivitis.