Busting myths about gum disease – Deborah Lyle

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  Posted by: Dental Design      21st June 2019

If your patients were asked to define poor oral health they would probably describe unsightly looking teeth, dental decay and perhaps bad breath. It is safe to say that many patients would not think to mention the gums and if they are pain free, they may be inclined to believe that both their teeth and gums are healthy.

A lot of people do not realise that they have gum disease even though it affects more than 45% of adults in the UK.[i]Most people will experience gum disease to some extent but it is easily overlooked. In the early stages there are few symptoms and they are not particularly painful. Furthermore, the effects of periodontal disease are frequently underestimated and there are also some common misconceptions relating to the disease too. To get inside our patients minds, to help educate them and strengthen public awareness, let’s take a look at some of the most common myths:


  1. Bleeding gums are not a problem.

This is an extremely common misconception and patients that notice that their gums bleed after brushing or flossing often believe that they have just been a bit over-zealous. It is important to ensure that patients realise that bleeding gums and red or swollen gums represent the initial signs of gingivitis – the earliest, mildest form of gum disease, which if not treated could lead to periodontitis.

Healthy gums should look pink, be firm and should not bleed when touched or brushed.[ii]

At this stage, symptoms can often be reversed with professional cleaning and by introducing an improved oral hygiene routine, before the tissues and bone supporting the teeth become infected. As an adjunct to tooth brushing, patients can benefit from the Waterpik®Water Flosser, which has been clinically proven to be more effective than string floss for reducing gingival bleeding and improving oral health.[iii]

  1. You don’t have to floss every day to prevent gum disease.

Although it may come as a surprise to some dental professionals, some people actually believe this and the majority of British individuals still do not floss their teeth.[iv]Most patients know that cleaning interdentally shouldbe part of a good oral health routine. But they are still reluctant to take 1 or 2 minutes out of their day to complete this task. This may be because they don’t take their oral hygiene very seriously or they simply don’t connect it with any detrimental effects on their health. Similarly it is well known, that people do not tend to remain committed to tasks that are difficult, inconvenient or tiresome. Therefore, a quick and easy way to floss effectively is needed, and the Waterpik®Water Flosser is the ideal solution. In fact, this advanced dental device is significantly more effective at reducing plaque and gingivitis than both string floss[v]and interdental brushes,[vi]and it will only take patients a minute a day.

  1. Poor oral hygiene is the only way you can get gum disease.

Of course, poor oral hygiene is certainly the most common cause of gum disease but your patients also need to understand that there are a number of other risks factors associated with its development. Firstly, tobacco use is a significant one and smoking can also lower the chances of successful treatment. Stress, hormonal changes, poor nutrition and obesity are also important risk factors for periodontal disease and patients with certain diseases such as diabetes have an increased risk of developing oral infections. Some drugs or medication can be a contributing factor in periodontal diseases and there is also age and genetic susceptibility – some people are simply more prone to periodontal disease than others.[vii],[viii]

  1. Gum disease is not serious.

This is probably the most worrying myth because many people assume that because gum disease is common, it is harmless. As well as informing patients that periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss,[ix]dental professionals must also ensure that they realise the further reaching implications it could potentially have on the health of the body. Indeed, there is strong evidence showing the associations and bidirectional relationships between periodontal disease and certain systemic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, chronic kidney disease, respiratory diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers and impairment of cognitive function to name but a few.[x]

Gum disease can be preventable!

This one is true – and the best way for patients to prevent gum disease is to adopt thorough oral hygiene habits, attend regular dental examinations and accept professional support. Dental professionals can help patients to develop an effective daily oral health routine and by recommending one of the Waterpik®Complete Care models, patients will have everything they need to implement it. These superior models combine tooth brushing and flossing into one convenient design and the Complete Care 9.0 for example, includes a Sonic Toothbrush with three cleaning modes and a Water Flosser to clean deep between the teeth and below the gum line.

With the correct information and the right tools, your patients are better placed to take control and improve their oral health to prevent harmful oral diseases.

For more information on Waterpik®please visit www.waterpik.co.uk. Waterpik®products are available from Amazon, Asda, Costco UK, Boots.com and Superdrug stores across the UK and Ireland.



[i]British Society of Periodontology. Gum Health Resources for Patients. Understanding the importance of gum health. http://www.bsperio.org.uk/patients/index.html[Accessed 12th February 2019]

[ii]NHS. Symptoms. Gum disease. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/gum-disease/symptoms/[Accessed 12thFebruary 2019]

[iii]Rosema NAM at al. The effect of different interdental cleaning devices on gingival bleeding. JIAP 2011 13(1):2-10. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/50350073_The_effect_of_different_interdental_cleaning_devices_on_gingival_bleeding[Accessed 12th February 2019]

[iv]The Statistics Portal. Share of individuals who floss their teeth in Great Britain 2017, by age. https://www.statista.com/statistics/778872/ teeth-flossing-likelihood-great-britain-by-age/ [Accessed 12thFebruary 2019]

[v]Barnes CM1, Russell CMReinhardt RAPayne JBLyle DM. Comparison of irrigation to floss as an adjunct to tooth brushing: effect on bleeding, gingivitis, and supragingival plaque. J Clin Dent. 2005;16(3):71-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16305005[Accessed 12th  February 2019]

[vi]Goyal CR, Lyle DM, Qaqish JG, Schuller R. Comparison of water flosser and interdental brush on reduction of gingival bleeding and plaque: a randomized controlled pilot study..J Clin Dent 2016. 27: 23-26. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16305005[Accessed 12th February 2019]

[vii]AlJehani Y.A. Risk factors of periodontal disease: Review of literature. Int J Dent, 2014:182513. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4055151/[Accessed 12thFebruary 2019]

[viii]U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. National Institutes of Health. Periodontal (Gum) disease. Causes, symptoms and treatments. https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2017-09/periodontal-disease_0.pdf[Accessed 12th February 2019]

[ix]European Federation of Periodontology. What is Periodontitis. https://www.efp.org/patients/what-is-periodontitis.html[Accessed 12th February 2019]

[x]Nazir M.A. Prevalence of periodontal disease, its association with systemic diseases and prevention. Int J Health Sci (Qassim). 2017 Apr-Jun; 11(2): 72–80.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5426403/[Accessed 12thFebruary 2019]

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