Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content

Gum disease

5-minute read

Key facts

  • Gum disease occurs when the tissue that surrounds and supports your teeth becomes inflamed.
  • Gum disease is very common in Australia, with 3 in every 10 adults having moderate to severe gum disease (periodontitis).
  • The early stage of gum disease is reversible, but if left untreated it may lead to more serious gum disease and infection.
  • Brushing your teeth and gums twice a day can help prevent gum disease.
  • Visit your dental practitioner regularly to keep your mouth healthy.

What is gum disease?

Gum disease occurs when the tissue that surrounds and supports your teeth becomes inflmamed.

Severe gum disease can lead to the loss of tissues that hold your teeth in place.

What are the types of gum disease?

The 2 main types of gum disease are:


Gingivitis is a common and mild form of gum disease. It occurs when plaque builds up on your teeth along your gumline.

Your gums become red and swollen, and may bleed easily when you brush. Gingivitis can also cause halitosis (bad breath).

Gingivitis can be treated and prevented with good mouth care. If gingivitis is not treated, it may cause a more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis.


Periodontitis may cause the area of your gums closest to your teeth to become weak. Spaces may form between your teeth and your gums, and these may trap germs, leading to even more swelling.

Your gums may shrink down from the tooth, exposing the surface of the tooth’s root. This makes your tooth sensitive to cold and sweet foods and drinks.

Over time, the bone supporting your teeth can be lost, causing your teeth to become loose and possibly fall out. Periodontitis can be controlled with the help of your dental practitioner or periodontist (gum health specialist).

What are the symptoms of gum disease?

Symptoms of gum disease include:

  • redness and swelling of your gums
  • bleeding gums when you brush your teeth
  • bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
  • gums that are receding (pulling away from your teeth)
  • sensitive teeth
  • loose teeth

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes gum disease?

Gum disease is caused by plaque, which is a sticky layer of germs that builds up on teeth and along the gumline. The germs (bacteria) in plaque irritate the gums, causing them to bleed easily.

If the plaque is not brushed off, it can become hard and further irritate the gums. Hardened plaque is called ‘calculus’ or ‘tartar’. It can only be removed by a dental practitioner.

You are more likely to develop gum disease if you:

  • smoke
  • take illicit drugs such as speed, ice (crystal meth) or heroin
  • are stressed
  • have diabetes
  • are taking certain medicines (such as medicines that cause a dry mouth)
  • have poor nutrition
  • are pregnant or going through puberty

When should I see my dentist or dental practitioner?

You should see your dental practitioner regularly for check-ups. See your dental practitioner as soon as possible if you have swollen or bleeding gums, or if your teeth feel loose.

FIND A HEALTH SERVICE — The Service Finder can help you find doctors, pharmacies, hospitals and other health services.

ASK YOUR DOCTOR — Preparing for an appointment? Use the Question Builder for general tips on what to ask your GP or specialist.

How is gum disease diagnosed?

Your dental practitioner will ask about your symptoms and will examine your teeth and gums. They may recommend taking x-rays of your teeth.

How is gum disease treated?

Your dental practitioner will clean any plaque and tartar from your teeth. They will also treat the roots of the teeth to get rid of the germs, if needed.

Your dental practitioner will also provide information on how to cleaning your teeth well.

Can gum disease be cured?

Gingivitis can be cured without permanent damage.

Periodontitis can't be cured, but it can be controlled. The bone loss may be very slow or stopped.

Can gum disease be prevented?

You can prevent gum disease by gently brush your teeth and gums twice a day with a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.

Even if brushing causes bleeding, continue to brush gently twice a day. You should also floss every day and visit your dental practitioner regularly for check-ups and cleaning.

Complications of gum disease

As well as harming your teeth, gum disease can affect your health in other ways.

There is growing evidence that poor oral health is associated with:

Resources and Support

Read more about how to care for your teeth and gums at

You can also call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available to speak with 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: April 2023

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Gum Disease |

Periodontal diseases are a range of diseases that affect the gums in the mouth. The most common types of periodontal disease are gingivitis and periodontitis.

Read more on Australian Dental Association – website

Tooth decay and gum disease

Tooth decay and gum disease are the 2 main types of dental disease, but good oral hygiene can prevent them both.

Read more on WA Health website

Gum Disease Treatment |

Treatment for gum disease known as periodontal disease can include non-surgical and surgical treatment options. Treatment is recommended to be completed in steps and requires work from both the patient and the dental team.

Read more on Australian Dental Association – website

Healthy habits for a healthy mouth - Healthy Mouths Healthy Living

Read more on NSW Health website

Gingivitis & gum disease: children & teens | Raising Children Network

Symptoms of gingivitis or gum disease include bleeding gums. If you think your child has gingivitis, see a dentist. Prevent gingivitis with good dental care.

Read more on website

Dental health - Diabetes Australia

The mouth is often overlooked as an area of the body with complications associated with diabetes.

Read more on Diabetes Australia website

Smoking and Vaping |

Smoking and vaping is associated with a higher risk of gum disease, tooth loss, complications after dental treatments, and users are more likely to develop oral cancers.

Read more on Australian Dental Association – website

Gum disease - Better Health Channel

Brushing teeth regularly helps to prevent gum disease and early treatment can help save affected teeth.

Read more on Better Health Channel website

Bleeding gums -

Bleeding gums are something many people notice when brushing their teeth or flossing, however, healthy gums rarely bleed.

Read more on myDr website

Oral healthcare -

Oral health problems include tooth decay, gum disease, mouth ulcers, halitosis, childhood teething and oral thrush.

Read more on myDr website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Queensland Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.