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What is the taste of gingivitis?

Gum disease

If you have a dental problem you should, in the first instance always telephone the dental practice that you normally attend.

If you are not registered with any dental practice then you should read our advice on dental emergencies.

Gum disease is a very common condition where the gums become swollen, sore or infected.

Most adults in the UK have gum disease to some degree and most people experience it at least once. It’s much less common in children.

If you have gum disease, your gums may bleed when you brush your teeth and you may have bad breath. This early stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis.

If gingivitis isn’t treated, a condition called periodontitis can develop. This affects more tissues that support teeth and hold them in place.

If periodontitis isn’t treated, the bone in your jaw may be damaged and small spaces can open up between the gum and teeth. Your teeth can become loose and may eventually fall out.

What causes gum disease?

Gum disease is caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth. Plaque is a sticky substance that contains bacteria.

Some bacteria in plaque are harmless, but some are harmful for the health of your gums. If you don’t remove plaque from your teeth by brushing them, it builds up and irritates your gums. This can lead to redness with bleeding, swelling and soreness.

Read more about the causes of gum disease.

Seeing your dentist

You should make an appointment to see your dentist if your gums are painful, swollen or if they bleed when you brush your teeth. Find a dentist near you.

Your dentist can carry out a thorough dental examination to check the health of your gums, which may involve inserting a thin metal stick with a bend in one end (periodontal probe) beside your teeth.

In some cases, a number of X-rays may be needed to check the condition of your teeth and jaw bone.

Preventing and treating gum disease

Mild cases of gum disease can usually be treated by maintaining a good level of oral hygiene. This includes brushing your teeth at least twice a day and flossing regularly. You should also make sure you attend regular dental check-ups.

In most cases, your dentist or dental hygienist will be able to give your teeth a thorough clean and remove any hardened plaque (tartar). They’ll also be able to show you how to clean your teeth effectively to help prevent plaque building up in the future.

If you have severe gum disease, you’ll usually need to have further medical and dental treatment and, in some cases, surgery may need to be carried out. This will usually be performed by a specialist in gum problems (periodontics).

Dental check-ups

It’s important to have regular dental check-ups so any problems with your teeth and gums can be detected and treated early.

If you’ve never had gum disease and have good oral health, you may only need to visit your dentist every one to two years for a check-up.

You may need to visit your dentist more frequently if you’ve had problems with gum disease in the past. At each appointment your dentist will advise when you need your next appointment.

If you have an increased risk of developing gum problems – for example, if you smoke or have diabetes – you may be advised to visit your dentist more often so your teeth and gums can be closely monitored.

Complications of gum disease

If you have untreated gum disease that develops into periodontitis, it can lead to further complications, such as:

  • gum abscesses (painful collections of pus)
  • receding gums
  • loose teeth
  • loss of teeth

Symptoms of gum disease

Healthy gums should be pink, firm and keep your teeth securely in place. Your gums shouldn’t bleed when you touch or brush them.

Gum disease isn’t always painful and you may be unaware you have it. It’s important to have regular dental check-ups.

Early symptoms

The initial symptoms of gum disease can include:

  • red and swollen gums
  • bleeding gums after brushing or flossing your teeth
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This stage of gum disease is called gingivitis.

Advanced symptoms

If gingivitis is untreated, the tissues and bone that support the teeth can also become affected. This is known as periodontitis, or periodontal disease.

Symptoms of periodontitis can include:

  • bad breath (halitosis)
  • an unpleasant taste in your mouth
  • loose teeth that can make eating difficult
  • gum abscesses (collections of pus that develop under your gums or teeth)

Acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis

In rare cases, a condition called acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) can develop suddenly. The symptoms of ANUG are usually more severe than those of gum disease and can include:

  • bleeding, painful gums
  • painful ulcers
  • receding gums inbetween your teeth
  • bad breath
  • a metallic taste in your mouth
  • excess saliva in your mouth
  • difficulty swallowing or talking
  • a high temperature (fever)

When to see a dentist

You should make an appointment to see your dentist if you think you may have gum disease or ANUG.

If you don’t currently have a dentist, search for a dentist near you.

Causes of gum disease

Gum disease can be caused by a number of factors, but poor oral hygiene is the most common cause.

Poor oral hygiene, such as not brushing your teeth properly or regularly, can cause plaque to build up on your teeth.


Your mouth is full of bacteria that combine with saliva to form a sticky film known as plaque, which builds up on your teeth.

When you consume food and drink high in carbohydrates (sugary or starchy foods), bacteria in plaque turn carbohydrates into the energy they need, producing acid at the same time.

Over time, acid in plaque begins to break down your tooth’s surface and causes tooth decay.

Other bacteria in plaque can also irritate your gums, making them inflamed and sore.

Plaque is usually easy to remove by brushing and flossing your teeth, but it can harden and form a substance called tartar if it’s not removed. Tartar sticks much more firmly to teeth than plaque and can usually only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist.

Who is most at risk?

As well as poor oral hygiene, a number of things can increase your risk of developing problems with your gums. These include:

  • smoking
  • your age – gum disease becomes more common as you get older
  • a family history of gum disease
  • diabetes – a lifelong condition that causes a person’s blood sugar levels to become too high
  • a weakened immune system – for example, because of conditions such as HIV and AIDS or certain treatments, such as chemotherapy
  • malnutrition – a condition that occurs when a person’s diet does not contain the right amount of nutrients
  • stress

Treating gum disease

The best way to treat gum disease is to practise good oral hygiene, although additional dental and medical treatments are sometimes necessary.

Oral hygiene

Good oral hygiene involves:

  • brushing your teeth for about two minutes last thing at night before you go to bed and on one other occasion everyday – it doesn’t matter if you use an electric or manual toothbrush but some people find it easier to clean their teeth thoroughly with an electric toothbrush
  • using toothpaste that contains the right amount of fluoride (a natural mineral that helps protect against tooth decay)
  • flossing your teeth regularly – preferably daily, before brushing your teeth
  • not smoking
  • regularly visiting your dentist – at least once every one to two years, but more frequently if necessary

See the teeth cleaning guide for more information and advice about how to keep your teeth clean.


Antiseptic mouthwashes containing chlorhexidine or hexetidine are available over the counter from pharmacies. However, there’s some debate about whether using mouthwash is necessary for people with healthy gums.

Your dentist may recommend using mouthwash if it helps control the build-up of plaque (the sticky substance that forms when bacteria collects on the surface of your teeth). Your dentist will be able to advise you about which type of mouthwash is most suitable and how to use it.

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Chlorhexidine mouthwash can stain your teeth brown if you use it regularly. Rinse your mouth thoroughly between brushing your teeth and using a chlorhexidine mouthwash because some ingredients in toothpaste can prevent the mouthwash working.

Dental treatments

Some of the dental treatments described below may also be recommended if you have gum disease.

Scale and polish

To remove plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) that can build up on your teeth, your dentist may suggest that you have your teeth scaled and polished. This is a «professional clean» usually carried out at your dental surgery by a dental hygienist.

The dental hygienist will scrape away plaque and tartar from your teeth using special instruments, then polish your teeth to remove marks or stains. If a lot of plaque or tartar has built up, you may need to have more than one scale and polish.

The price of a scale and polish can vary depending on what needs to be carried out, so ask your dental hygienist how much it will cost beforehand.

Root planing

In some cases of gum disease, root planing (debridement) may be required. This is a deep clean under the gums that gets rid of bacteria from the roots of your teeth.

Before having the treatment, you may need to have a local anaesthetic (painkilling medication) to numb the area. You may experience some pain and discomfort for up to 48 hours after having root planing.

Further treatment

If you have severe gum disease, you may need further treatment, such as periodontal surgery. In some cases, it’s necessary to remove the affected tooth. Your dentist will be able to tell you about the procedure needed and how it’s carried out. If necessary, they can refer you to a specialist.

If you’re having surgery or root planing, you may be given antibiotics (medication to treat infections). Your dentist will tell you whether this is necessary.

Acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis

Acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) should always be treated by a dentist. However, if you see your GP before visiting a dentist, they may provide you with some treatment while you wait to see your dentist.

As well as the oral hygiene advice and dental treatments mentioned above, treatments for ANUG may also include antibiotics, painkillers and different types of mouthwash. These are described below.


Treatment with antibiotics, such as metronidazole or amoxicillin, may be recommended if you have ANUG. You’ll usually have to take these for three days.

Amoxicillin isn’t suitable for people allergic to penicillin. Metronidazole can react with alcohol, causing you to feel very unwell. You shouldn’t drink alcohol while you’re taking metronidazole and for 48 hours after you finish the course of treatment.

Other side effects of metronidazole and amoxicillin can include nausea (feeling sick), vomiting and diarrhoea.


Paracetamol and ibuprofen are the most commonly prescribed painkillers. They’re also available over the counter from pharmacies. They may help reduce pain and discomfort.

However, paracetamol and ibuprofen aren’t suitable for everyone, so read the manufacturer’s instructions before taking them.


Mouthwash containing chlorhexidine or hydrogen peroxide may be prescribed to treat ANUG. Some chlorhexidine mouthwashes are also available over the counter, though they may not be as effective as a hydrogen peroxide mouthwash.

You should always read the instructions before using mouthwash. Some types may need to be diluted in water before they’re taken.

Complications of gum disease

If you develop gingivitis and don’t have the plaque or tartar (hardened plaque) removed from your teeth, the condition may get worse and lead to periodontitis.

You may develop further complications if you don’t treat periodontitis (where the tissue that supports teeth is affected), including:

  • recurrent gum abscesses (painful collections of pus)
  • increasing damage to the periodontal ligament (the tissue that connects the tooth to the socket)
  • increasing damage to and loss of the alveolar bone (the bone in the jaw that contains the sockets of the teeth)
  • receding gums
  • loose teeth
  • loss of teeth
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Acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis

If you have acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) and it’s not treated, it can cause more severe complications.

The infection can spread to all areas of your gums and the alveolar bone surrounding your teeth. This can lead to:

  • the gums between your teeth being completely destroyed
  • large ulcers (open sores) leaving permanent holes in your gums
  • loose and unstable teeth

If ANUG isn’t properly treated the first time you have it, you’re more likely to have recurring cases in the future. This can cause persistent bad breath (halitosis) and bleeding gums, as well as gradually receding gums.

In rare cases, ANUG can lead to gangrene affecting the lips and cheeks. This occurs when tissue starts to die and waste away. If you develop gangrene, you may need to have the dead tissue removed.

Other complications

Gum disease has also been associated with an increased risk for a number of other health conditions, including:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • lung infections
  • if affected during pregnancy, premature labour and having a baby with a low birth weight

However, while people with gum disease may have an increased risk of these problems, there isn’t currently any clear evidence that gum disease directly causes them.


It’s easy to miss the signs of gum disease. According to one professional dental association, just 10% of adults who have gum disease are aware of it. But if you have puffy, red gums that bleed easily when you brush or floss, you could have gingivitis. There may not be pain associated with gingivitis, which is why the signs may be overlooked.

From puffy to receding and bleeding gums, if you’re noticing changes in your mouth and aren’t sure what’s going on, brush up on the red flags of gum disease to see if what you’re experiencing may be signs of this gum infection.

Overlooking bleeding gums after brushing or flossing might not seem like an issue at first, but there’s good reason to keep track of these signals – which are early signs of a very treatable, reversible form of gum disease. Left untreated, this mild stage of gum disease can progress to an advanced stage, which permanently damages the bones and tissue that hold teeth in place. Pay attention to these most visible signals your body is sending you and keep your mouth healthy.

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  1. Red Gums (Redness or Inflammation of Gums) Red is the warning-sign color for danger. So it makes sense that if you start peeking in the mirror and seeing gums that are a shade of red or are purplish, this could signal gums that are in trouble. Healthy gums are firm and pale pink. Bacteria can cause inflamed gums, which is known as gingivitis, the early, mild stage of gum disease, or periodontitis, the later, more serious stage of the disease.
  2. Sore Gums In the early stage of gum disease, gums can also swell as they become inflamed. This is a sign that you want to start adhering to a more solid oral-care routine.
  3. Bleeding of Gums Having bleeding gums, when you spit into it after brushing and/or flossing is another symptom of gum disease. Gums that bleed easily signal early-stage gum disease.
  4. Receding Gums Gums Are Pulling Away from Your Teeth. If your teeth are starting to look bigger than normal, and you notice receding gums or gums that pull away from your teeth, this is another classic sign of early gum disease or periodontitis. It’s not just a natural part of ageing.
  5. Bad BreathBad breath, or having an exceedingly bad taste in your mouth, can also signal early gum disease. Plaque buildup on the tongue is usually the culprit to bad breath.
  6. Dissecting red, Puffy and Irritated Gums If your gums are red, swollen and irritated, and you notice gum bleeding after you brush or floss, these are some of the first signs of early gum disease, or gingivitis, which is quite common. Gums go from healthy pink and firm to irritated, red and puffy due to increasing amounts of plaque on the teeth as the body’s inflammatory response kicks in. When the gums are inflamed and agitated, they bleed easily when brushed or flossed. The most common cause of irritated gums is an inconsistent oral hygiene routine at home. Improper brushing technique can also exacerbate these issues. Not brushing and flossing regularly or properly allows food and bacteria to lodge in between the tooth and gums creating a home for bacteria to multiply and become dental plaque. This buildup of plaque at the gum line, if not removed with a good, healthy clean-mouth routine, can harden into tartar, which can only be removed with professional dental tools. What’s crucial to know if there is a window of time when gums are bleeding and inflamed when you can still reverse the gum infection in its infancy simply by improving your oral hygiene. So, while gingivitis is not serious, it needs to be taken seriously and acted on, or it will become advanced gum disease (periodontitis), which is the leading cause of adult tooth loss. Rinse twice daily, stick to gentle, twice-daily brushing with a soft bristle or electric brush and floss once daily. Also, be sure to schedule regular dentist visits for plaque and tartar removal.
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Other unique changes in your mouth spurred by gum disease could also include tender-to-the-touch gums, odd new spaces forming between your teeth, loose teeth and/or a change in your bite or the way your teeth fit together when you bite. These are signs you should not ignore. If you take control of your gum situation, there’s still a chance for you to avoid advanced gum disease.

  • Gingivitis
    • Causes of Gum Disease
    • Signs & Symptoms of Gum Disease
    • Prevent & Treat Gum Disease
    • Gum Protection
    • Irritated Gums
    • Biofilm
    • Bleeding Gums
    • FAQ’s

    Symptoms of Gum Disease; How to Spot the early signs of Periodontitis

    Symptoms of Gum Disease; How to Spot the early signs of Periodontitis

    Gum disease, also known as periodontitis, can be a significant danger to your oral health. Gum disease is one of the most common dental issues that adults face, and as is the case with all aspects of your dental health, it’s crucial to spot the signs of gum disease early on. Taking preventative measures to ensure proper oral hygiene is always more effective than trying to treat issues after they arise.

    Initially, gum disease progresses slowly and without causing pain, but once it develops, symptoms can be numerous and painful. Here are the symptoms of periodontitis that you should look out for:

    • Swollen, red, sensitive gums, and other forms of mouth pain or gum discoloration
    • Overly sensitive teeth
    • Red sores on your gums or the inside of your mouth
    • Bleeding gums caused by brushing your teeth, flossing, or biting into solid food
    • Receding gums, with significant gaps between your gums and teeth; this may result in your teeth looking longer than usual
    • Incessant bad breath, even shortly after brushing
    • A metallic taste in your mouth
    • Loose (adult) teeth, a difference in your bite, or gaps forming between teeth
    • A change in the fit of partial dentures or orthodontics
    • Pus excreted between gums and teeth

    Periodontitis can be exhibited by any one or more of these symptoms. The good news is that gum disease is extremely preventable, and even if symptoms do arise, there are many effective treatments available. The onset of even one of the above symptoms should be cause for immediate concern and action should be taken right away. If you show any signs of gum disease, we recommend booking a consultation with a dentist.

    What is gum disease and how does it arise?

    Gum disease ranges from mild forms of gingivitis to serious cases of periodontitis that can cause the destruction of teeth, gums, and connective tissues. When healthy, your gums and bone have a firm grasp on your teeth, holding them in place. Gum disease damages this connection between your gums and teeth.

    Gum disease is caused by plaque living on your teeth. Plaque contains bacteria that can be harmful to your teeth. While plaque can be removed with brushing and flossing, if it isn’t cleaned effectively, it eventually hardens into what is called tartar.

    Once tartar is allowed to grow below the gum line, harmful toxins in the bacteria begin to cause damage to the gums. In defense of the toxins, gums start to swell. This inflammation of the gums is called gingivitis. Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease, but it can be a precursor to more serious forms of periodontitis.

    Periodontitis is a more harmful form of gum disease. As bacteria continues to grow in the swollen pockets between the teeth and gums, the body starts to turn against itself. As a result, the connective tissue that holds teeth in place becomes weakened and brown down. This is known as attachment loss.

    Over time, your teeth can become loose, weakened, and damaged, potentially requiring removal. Although treatments are available, including professional hygienic treatments and effective home care, the best defense against gum disease is prevention.

    Causes of Gum Disease and Risk Factors

    It’s crucial to know if you’re at risk for gum disease. That way, you can seek out treatment before any symptoms arise. The following are common risk factors associated with periodontitis.

    • Smoking: Smoking is one of the most substantial risks with respect to gum disease, but also one of the most avoidable. Several scientific studies have demonstrated a strong relationship between smoking and periodontitis.
    • Stress: Psychological and physical stress can make it difficult for the body to fight infection. Therefore, significant stress can weaken the body against gum disease.
    • Poor nutrition, obesity, pregnancy, and diabetes: As is the case with stress, these factors are difficult on the body’s immune system. Any health conditions that impact your body’s ability to fight off infection increase the risk of gum disease.
    • Medication: Certain prescription drugs can result in an increased risk of gum disease. If you’re taking anti-depressants, heart medication, or any other prescription drugs, it’s best to notify your dental provider just as you would with a doctor. It helps your dentist to know if you are more susceptible to risk.
    • Grinding teeth: Frequent clenching or grinding of teeth causes tension on the connective tissue that binds your teeth and gums together. There are many natural ways to prevent teeth grinding while, including the use of a mouth guard, getting more sleep, drinking more water, and other behavioural techniques.
    • Age: Age is associated with periodontal disease. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 70% of Americans aged 65 and over had some form of gum disease.
    • Genetics: As with many diseases, some individuals are more susceptible simply because of their genes. Even the healthiest and most responsible patients can be prone to gum disease, so it’s best to identify increased risk ahead of time.

    How to Prevent Gum Disease

    Preventing gum disease requires healthy oral habits. We recommend that you brush your teeth after every meal, including your tongue. You should also floss at least once per day, and rinse with a dentist-approved mouthwash after flossing.

    Most importantly, talk to a dental professional. We at Vitality Dental, a private dental clinic in West Sussex, can provide you with all the necessary treatment and advice to maintain healthy gums.

    Types of Treatment Available for Gum Disease

    If you do have gum disease, there are effective treatments available. Treatments include cleanings, medications, and if necessary, surgery. Cleanings are gentle but comprehensive, and typically stop the spreading of infection. These treatments involve scraping off tartar and targeting problematic spots on the root of your teeth.

    Medications include antibiotic gels and rinses, as well as oral antibiotics. Gum surgery or bone and tissue grafts may be required if your periodontitis has reached critical levels.

    No matter what the type of treatment, it’s important that you maintain regular daily care at home. For more information on gum disease prevention and treatment, contact Vitality Dental today.

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