Gum disease and its harmful effects

Br Dr Rosalind Ho BDS (S’pore) MFGDP (UK)

What is gum disease?

A close up of food

Description automatically generated
By Rosalind Ho (

Gum disease is also known as Periodontal disease. It is the infection of the soft tissues surrounding the teeth and may extend to the supporting tissues such as the ligaments and the bone around the tooth.

Effects of gum disease

Gum disease is a silent disease, that is why the patient needs to have his or her screened before it is too late. If not treated, they may spread to the neighboring teeth resulting in further bone loss.

Periodontal disease is linked to heart disease known as Mouth-heart connection. The bacteria from the mouth can go into the blood stream and land on the heart valves and damage them. Bacteria may also lead to narrowing of the arteries resulting in heart attacks.

Periodontal disease is cited by the October issue 2020 of  JCDA (Journal of the California Dental Association) in Mouth-Covid Connection. Hospitalized coronavirus patients with underlying gum disease have higher risk of respiratory failure.

Types of gum disease

Gingivitis is the earlier stage where there is inflammation of the gums and     there is no bone loss.

Acute gingivitis–The gums usually is red and may be swollen and prone to bleeding.

Chronic gingivitis—The gums are fibrous and looked bulky.

Periodontitis—This is a progressive destructive disease of tissues surround the tooth and usually results in loss of bone and eventual tooth loss.

 Signs and Symptoms of gum disease

  1. Gums are tender, swollen and bleeding
  2. Gums are receded exposing roots which may be sensitive
  3. Discharge of pus from the gums
  4. Bad breath also called halitosis
  5. Teeth become loose and may tilt or shift.
  6. Teeth are tender to biting.
  7. Teeth become sensitive

*Gingivitis will progress to Periodontitis if not treated.

A picture containing girl, looking, holding, child

Description automatically generated
From Dr Rosalind Ho’s archives

Digital scan shows the severe loss of bone around the back teeth which require extractions.

Factors that predispose to gum disease

1 Age

2 Smoking

3 Stress

4 Genetics

5 Some medications

6 Clenching and night grinding of teeth

7 Some systemic diseases

8 Poor nutrition

9 Obesity


1 Regular trips to the dentist to have dental prophylaxis done to remove tartar and plaque and screen for gum disease.

2 Correct tooth brushing technique and flossing followed by the use of dental aids to maintain good oral hygiene.

3 Root planning and even surgery may be indicated for badly involved teeth. Extraction may also be the choice.

4  Antibiotics are prescribed when treating gum disease especially if there is pus discharge.


Teeth and gums are often neglected as they are largely asymptomatic. Especially periodontal disease. The result of tooth loss would result in poor mastication and speech besides esthetic effects. The cost consideration for treating advanced gum disease is also much more than regular maintenance through scaling and polishing.

Leave a Comment