Ask the Dentist: Gum disease an age-old problem but no longer treated with poison

Lucy Stock, dentist at Gentle Dental Care in Belfast, says gum disease treatments have moved on from the days of the Egyptians

With direct access you can book a hygiene appointment without seeing a dentist first
Lucy Stock

ANCIENT Egyptians didn’t miss a trick when it came to teeth, out of the 100 different types of doctors that they had, about half a dozen were concerned with fixing up the mouth.

The top of the tree for dentists was the man of many hats named Hesi-Re, also known as 'Chief Toother'. He was also 'Interpreter of the Secret Art of the Internal Organs' and 'Guardian of the Anus'. Now that’s multitasking.


If you wanted your gum disease sorted out in ancient Egypt, Hesi-Re may have made you up a mouthwash prepared from the colocynth plant. Unfortunately, it’s a strong poison so patients could have got slightly more than they bargained for.


Luckily things have progressed in the treatment of gum disease. Bleeding gums and loose teeth are your body’s way of signalling that your gums need attention. Making like an ostrich and ignoring the issue of gum disease will just lead to a slow burn of the disease eroding the jaw bone to such a degree that a simple sneeze could blow the tooth out.

Neither does trying to be too gentle and resorting to soft toothbrushes in the false belief that they are kinder to bleeding gums.


The mouth thrives when it is clean – this creates the environment that your gums crave to heal. Gum health requires a multi-pronged attack. Firstly, you need to up your game by taking a zero-tolerance approach to soft white plaque building up. Arm yourself with any of the myriad of tooth-cleaning devices to banish plaque from all the surfaces of your teeth.


Secondly, gums only return to a healthy state if all the hard tartar is removed as well. It’s the tartar that you can’t see below the gum that does the most damage and only a dentist or hygienist can properly remove hard tartar. Numbing your teeth can make the cleaning more comfortable and effective.


It couldn’t be easier now to access cleaning services at a dental practice because since 2013 Direct Access was introduced. Previously you had to be examined by a dentist before going to the hygienist. Now with direct access you can book a hygiene appointment without seeing a dentist first. Many practices have online booking to make the process even simpler.


A hygienist can see you to provide oral hygiene advice and remove staining or tartar. They can advise you on the state of your gums but more advanced conditions need to be assessed by a dentist and then the hygienist would recommence treatment under the prescription of the dentist.

Written by Chief Toother – I’m hoping to reintroduce this term!

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe from just £1 for the first month to get full access


Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: