Gum disease is very common, but it’s also preventable and we encourage our patients to take steps to keep them free from painful, swollen gums. Gum disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film, which is made when food debris and bacteria combines with saliva. The bacteria in the plaque irritate the gums, causing them to become inflamed, red, sore and tender. Many people first notice the signs of gum disease when they see blood after brushing their teeth. The mild form of gum disease, gingivitis, is easily treated, but it can quickly become more advanced. Periodontal disease, the more serious form of gum disease, is much more difficult to manage and it can cause irreparable damage to the gums and the bone structure beneath, which eventually causes the teeth to come loose in their sockets. The symptoms of more advanced cases of gum disease include bleeding and swollen gums, as well as an unpleasant taste in the mouth, bad breath and the formation of pockets between the teeth and gums. Most cases of gum disease are associated with poor oral hygiene, but there are additional factors, such as smoking, which can increase the risk of gum disease. If you notice the warning signs of gum disease, it’s best to see your dentist as soon as possible, so that they can check your gums and administer any treatment that is needed as quickly as possible. Good oral hygiene is the best way of lowering your risk of developing gum disease and diet is also very important. Try to avoid eating a lot of sugary and acidic foods, especially between meals and wait an hour before you brush your teeth after eating. This helps to prevent damage to the tooth enamel.