What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease– also known as periodontal disease– is experienced by most adults in the UK in differing severity. This happens when plaque builds up on your teeth and is not removed when you are brushing your teeth. In time, as plaque builds up this causes irritation of the gums. Some are more susceptible to periodontal disease such as those who smoke, have diabetes or decreased immunity e.g. cancer treatment. Periodontal disease is common but also largely preventable.
What are the early signs of Gum disease?
The very early stages can be quite silent and have been known to progress over a long period without being noticeable to the patient. That is why it is crucial that your dentist is checking for gum disease regularly at check ups.
The most common first sign is bad breath and your gums bleeding when you clean your teeth. If you are also experiencing pain and inflammation you should have this checked by your dentist. Other signs include, but are not limited to:
- Pus between your teeth and gums
- Painful chewing
- Pink-tinged toothbrush after brushing
What should dentists do to fight Gum Disease?
A dentist is able to provide you with the tools and know how on how to prevent your oral health declining further. Simple practices such as brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at regular intervals are the main tools to help you fight early gum disease. A dental hygienist will be able to remove built up plaque. If spotted and treated early, gum disease can be treated effectively and swiftly.
During your routine appointment a dentist should carry out a periodontal examination at least every 12 months. In order to assess you for the potential of gum disease a dentist will carry out an examination called “pocket testing” as well as taking regular x-rays. “Pocket testing” is when the dentist will use a small probe to measure the pockets or areas between your gums and teeth. The dentist inserts this probe down the side of your tooth to identify any gum recession. This is done for each tooth. Whilst also doing this, the dentist will look to see if there is any inflammation or if the probe itself causes any bleeding.
If you are suffering from early gum disease, your dentist has a duty to provide you with adequate advice about oral hygiene i.e. how to brush and floss your teeth properly. This may well include a demonstration.
There is no cure for gum disease, but the correct treatment can prevent the disease from getting worse.
Failure to spot or treat gum disease
If your dentist fails to diagnose and treat your early gum disease, the tissues that hold your teeth in place will be affected. This can cause your teeth to become loose and fall out. There is also the possibility that the bone in your jaw will become damaged. This can lead to a gap forming between your gum and teeth.
If this occurs, in exceptional cases, the bacteria which causes the disease, can enter the bloodstream and possibly affect the rest of your body, causing respiratory disease or coronary artery disease.
Your dentist has a duty to identify and treat gum disease to prevent the disease becoming worse and bacteria spreading in your blood stream.
If patients have not been treated or referred for treatment then there is potentially a claim against the dentist for a failure to spot and/or treat the disease. If this happens a patient could well be looking at thousands of pounds for treatment, including expensive dental implants.
How much compensation is my gum disease claim worth?
Claims such as these can be worth between £10,000 and £40,000. For example:
£75,000 was recovered for a 66-year-old woman, for failed dental procedures to treat her periodontal disease in around 2009. Her upper teeth were removed and replaced with implants and bridges which failed.
£35,000 for a lady in the reported case of RP v Lane (2020) following her dentist’s failure to diagnose and treat gum disease for a 6 year period. The Claimant suffered the loss of 9 teeth for which she required implants.
£26,500 to a Claimant in DB v KF (2020) after failure to diagnose and treat gum disease. The Claimant lost several teeth and was at risk of losing more.