What are Gum Treatments and How They Can Help Gum Disease?
What are Gum Treatments and How They Can Help Gum Disease?
Most patients worry about the dentist finding tooth decay. While tooth decay is a serious dental health concern that can result in abscessed or loose teeth, the often-overlooked gum disease can be just as serious.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is inflammation and decay of the gum tissue and jaw bone caused by the accumulation of plaque and tartar (hardened plaque). Similar to tooth decay, gum disease is caused by inadequate dental hygiene. The same kind of germs and leftover food particles in the mouth settle in “pockets” where the surface of the tooth and the gum line meet. The plaque then accumulates in these areas, usually progressing under the gum line.
Gum disease starts off as gingivitis. This mildest form of gum disease can be quickly halted from progressing and can be easily reversed with improved oral hygiene.
If gingivitis isn’t treated, it progresses into periodontal disease. It is this moderate to severe form of gum disease where substantial damage to the gums and jaw bone supporting the teeth can occur. In the worst case of periodontal disease, teeth get loose and fall out. Patients with periodontal disease requires the intervention and treatment done by a dental professional.
The majority of American adults have some form of gum disease. How do you know if you have gum disease?
Common Symptoms of Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease:
Swollen, Red and Inflamed Gums.
Receding Gums (your teeth will look unusually long).
Pain When Chewing.
Gum Disease Treatments
The tartar that forms on the teeth by the gum line will only be able to be removed by a dentist. Patients who don’t have extensive tartar build up can reverse the progression of their gingivitis by doing a better job with their at-home brushing and flossing.
Patients whose gingivitis has progressed into periodontal disease will often need to undergo a dental procedure called deep cleaning (also known as root scaling and planning). In this procedure, the dentist will scrape away the plaque and tartar off the teeth above and below the gum line. The root of the teeth will also be cleaned of plaque and tartar build-up. You’ll then get a clean slate.
For the most severe cases of periodontal disease, surgical treatments may be prescribed. The two most common dental surgical procedures to halt severe gum disease are: flap surgery and bone and tissue grafts.
Flap surgery is where the dentist will lift back the gums and remove the built-up tartar underneath. Flap surgery not only removes the tartar build-up, but it also reduces the depth of the periodontal pocket, making the area easier to clean and maintain in the future.
Bone and tissue grafts aim to rebuild and regrow damaged bone and gum tissue that has been weakened or destroyed from untreated periodontal disease. The procedures involve inserting small pieces of mesh-like material to keep the gum tissue from growing into the areas of bone loss.
Both tooth decay and gum disease are serious dental health issues that can result in tooth loss and other significant oral health issues. For the health of your mouth, body and overall wellbeing, it is important to get regular dental check-ups and exams and to have your gum disease treated as soon as possible.
Nonsurgical vs. surgical treatments for gum disease: What are my options?
Whether you need surgical or nonsurgical gum disease treatment depends on several factors, including:
The stage of gum disease.
Your existing oral health.
Your existing overall health.
Your ability to follow post-treatment oral hygiene instructions.
There are a number of nonsurgical and surgical gum disease treatment options available. In addition, many periodontists offer sedation dentistry to keep you comfortable during your treatment. To learn more, talk to a healthcare provider.
Nonsurgical gum disease treatments
People with early-stage gum disease — such as gingivitis or mild periodontitis — can benefit from nonsurgical therapies. Nonsurgical treatments for gum disease include:
Dental prophylaxis is a routine dental cleaning — like the one that many people have with their hygienist twice a year. During this procedure, a provider removes plaque and tartar from your teeth surfaces.
People who have gingivitis (the first stage of gum disease) can often reverse it with professional dental cleanings and improved oral hygiene at home. Depending on your specific situation, you might need more frequent cleanings with your dentist or hygienist to keep harmful bacteria at bay.
Scaling and root planing
Scaling and root planing — a deep dental cleaning — reaches deep beneath your gum line to remove plaque and tartar on your root surfaces. In addition to thoroughly cleaning your teeth, your periodontist or dental hygienist will smooth away any rough spots on your teeth roots. This helps prevent bacteria and plaque from reattaching. Your periodontist will give you local anesthesia to numb your gums and keep you comfortable during this procedure.
Your periodontist may use antibiotics — either as a stand-alone treatment or in combination with other procedures. Common antibiotics used in the treatment of gum disease include products like minocycline HCl (Arestin®) or chlorhexidine (PerioChip®). Your periodontist can place these medications in the space between your gums and teeth (the periodontal pocket).
Laser periodontal therapy
During this procedure, your periodontist uses a tiny laser to remove diseased tissue and kill bacteria under your gums. In some cases, providers recommend laser therapy as an alternative to traditional gum surgery. Unlike traditional gum surgery, laser therapy doesn’t require incisions or sutures.
Surgical gum disease treatments
People with moderate to advanced periodontal disease usually require surgical intervention. Surgical treatments for gum disease include:
Pocket reduction surgery (flap surgery)
During this procedure, your periodontist will create incisions along your gum line, then temporarily move your gums away from your teeth. This allows them to see the roots underneath. Next, they’ll remove the tartar buildup and clean your root surfaces. In some instances, they may smooth and reshape areas of damaged bone, making it harder for bacteria to hide and grow. Finally, they’ll reposition your gums and suture them into place.
A dental bone graft uses your own bone, donated bone or synthetic bone to rebuild areas that have been damaged by gum disease. The graft serves as a type of scaffolding that holds space until your body can regenerate new bone. Periodontists often perform bone grafting in combination with pocket reduction surgery.
A gum graft uses your own tissue, donated tissue or synthetic tissue to treat gum recession (when your gums pull away from your teeth). Gum recession is a common symptom of periodontal disease.
During gum grafting surgery, your periodontist places the tissue graft in areas where your gums have receded and sutures (stitches) it into place. If they use your own tissue, they’ll take the graft from the roof of your mouth.
Guided tissue regeneration
Periodontal disease can cause gaps that form between your tooth root and bone. During guided tissue regeneration, your periodontist places a membrane in the damaged area to keep your gum tissue from growing where bone should be. This gives your body time to regenerate bone around your tooth. In many cases, periodontists place a bone graft during the same procedure to help this process.
How successful is gum disease treatment?
Periodontal disease treatment has impressive success rates that can reach 95% in some instances. These rates vary based on several factors, including the type of procedure performed and how a person cares for their teeth and gums following treatment.
Gum disease treatment can change the long-term outlook for teeth damaged by periodontitis. In many cases, this type of therapy can save teeth that were hopeless without treatment.
It’s important to understand that you can’t cure gum disease, you can only manage it. Treatments focus on prevention and management, rather than a cure.
How long will it take to recover from gum disease treatment?
It depends on the type of treatment you receive. If you have scaling and root planing, you won’t need any downtime. If you undergo procedures for advanced periodontal disease — such as flap surgery, bone grafts or gum grafts — you’ll need anywhere from one to four weeks to recover.
How should I care for my teeth and gums after gum disease treatment?
Immediately following your gum disease treatment, your periodontist will give you a list of detailed care instructions. These guidelines vary depending on what type of procedure you had. Be sure to ask your periodontist about specific post-treatment care. In general, you should:
Take all medications exactly as prescribed by your periodontist.
Call your periodontist if you develop any concerning side effects, such as bleeding that won’t stop or pain that doesn’t go away with medication.
Keep the treatment area clean. (Your periodontist will tell you how to do this based on your specific situation.)
Long-term oral hygiene
Gum disease treatment helps reduce harmful bacteria in your mouth. But if you don’t practice good oral hygiene at home, the bacteria can regrow, leaving you in the same place you started. To prevent this from happening, you should follow your periodontist’s specific instructions. Here are some general guidelines:
Brush your teeth two to three times every day, angling your toothbrush toward your gum line. This helps sweep away harmful bacteria that hide between your teeth and gums.
Floss your teeth once every day. It doesn’t matter whether you floss in the morning, during the day or before bed. But flossing is essential for removing plaque, tartar and bacteria between your teeth.
Use an antibacterial mouthwash twice a day. Choose a formula that’s alcohol-free to reduce your risk of dry mouth (xerostomia).
See your dentist or hygienist for routine dental cleanings. The frequency of these visits is different for everyone, based on the severity of your disease. For example, some people may only need two cleanings a year, while others may need four.
Can I use hydrogen peroxide for gum disease treatment?
While hydrogen peroxide reduces plaque and tartar on your teeth, you should never use it undiluted, as it can burn your gum tissue. But if you’d like, you can combine one part hydrogen peroxide with three parts water. Swish this mixture for 60 seconds, then spit. Or you can purchase a mouthwash that already contains hydrogen peroxide.
Can I cure gum disease without a dentist?
Gum disease isn’t curable. It’s only manageable. But you can’t successfully manage gum disease without the help of a dentist or periodontist. This is because bacteria seep way down under the surface of your gums, where brushing and flossing can’t reach.
At best, diligent oral hygiene might slow the destruction process. But professional treatment is the key to proper management and long-term oral health
What are the pros and cons of laser treatment for gum disease?
Periodontists use laser light therapy to kill disease-causing bacteria and sterilize the treatment area. As with most procedures, there are pros and cons.
Pros of laser treatment for gum disease
Here are the most notable benefits of laser therapy:
Accuracy and precision. Periodontal lasers target diseased tissue while leaving healthy tissue intact.
Reduced pain. Because laser therapy is less invasive compared to traditional gum surgery, people who undergo this procedure usually have less pain, swelling and discomfort.
Shorter recovery. Recovery after laser therapy tends to be shorter compared to traditional gum surgery. But exact healing times vary depending on how many teeth need treatment and the severity of the disease.
Cons of laser treatment for gum disease
There’s one major disadvantage when it comes to periodontal laser therapy: It’s not always effective when treating advanced periodontal disease. If you have severe periodontitis, your periodontist may recommend traditional flap surgery.