Gum disease (gingivitis)

Healthy gums are pink, firm and don’t bleed when brushed.

Facts on gum disease

  • Gum disease affects gums, bone and the tissues supporting your teeth.
  • If plaque is not brushed from your teeth and gums and is allowed to build up, signs of gum disease may appear.
  • Plaque is a sticky colourless film of bacteria that builds up on teeth, mainly near the gum line and between the teeth where it’s difficult to clean. If plaque is not brushed off, the bacteria combines with food to produce acids. This acid starts the decay process and irritates gums.
  • The longer plaque is allowed to build up, the more gums become irritated.
  • Avoiding brushing in these areas makes the condition worse.
  • Gentle brushing to remove plaque also massages gums and helps with the healing process.
  • The mildest form of gum disease is called gingivitis. Symptoms include inflammation of the gums, redness, swelling and some bleeding. Bad breath, a bad taste in your mouth and gums that feel soft or spongy are also signs of gum disease.
  • Gingivitis is reversible and can heal, leaving no permanent damage.
  • If plaque is allowed to build up, it eventually hardens and calcifies. This is called calculus or tartar and results in further irritation to gums.
  • Calculus can only be removed by a dental professional.


  • Periodontitis is a more severe form of gum disease.
  • Permanent damage may occur to your gums and the tissue supporting your teeth.
  • Periodontitis usually responds to treatment so it’s important you seek dental advice. Your dentist will discuss any periodontal treatment needs with you.

To care for your teeth and gums

  • Gently brush your teeth and gums in the morning and before bed at night.
  • Brush all the plaque away from your teeth, between your teeth and around your gum line.
  • Use a small soft toothbrush and a pea size amount of adult fluoride toothpaste. Spit the toothpaste out but don’t rinse.
  • Don’t avoid brushing areas, even if they bleed.
  • Be gentle.
  • Visit your dental professional and ask how to clean problem or difficult to reach areas. Other cleaning aids such as floss or interdental brushes may be suggested.