Treating gum disease

November 13, 2015

Your dentist will know if you have gum disease (gingivitis) just by looking in your mouth. Your gums will be slightly swollen, they'll bleed easily and they'll be deep red rather than healthy pink. To determine how serious it is, the dentist will use a small metal probe to measure the depth of the space between your teeth and gums.  Nearly everyone can put their gums back in the pink with some simple steps.

Treating gum disease

1. Did you know?

If the groove is deeper than three millimetres (1/8 inch), it may mean that gingivitis has progressed to the point that it’s damaging tissue and has created "pockets" that are vulnerable to continued infection. Early-stage gum disease will probably disappear once you have your teeth professionally cleaned.

2. Medications

If your gums stay red and swollen after several weeks of good home care, your dentist might recommend that you use a prescription mouthwash that contains chlorhexidine gluconate (Peridex). It reduces plaque by 55 percent and gingivitis by 30 percent to 40 percent. It has an unpleasantly bitter taste, however, and it may stain your teeth or dental work. For those reasons, it’s only prescribed when basic oral hygiene doesn't do the trick.

3. Procedures

When you have gum disease, you'll need regular cleanings every three months by a dental hygienist or a dentist who specializes in gum disease (a periodontist). If you've had gingivitis for years, your dentist may need to remove all of the accumulated plaque and tartar. This process is much more involved than a routine cleaning. It’s called full-mouth debridement, or scaling and root planing.

Over a period of weeks, the dentist will use manual instruments as well as ultrasound to break down and remove tartar from your teeth. Damaged tissue will also be removed and the surfaces of the teeth as well as the roots will be smoothed, making it harder for plaque to accumulate later on.

Regardless of whether you need a full-mouth debridement, your dentist will probably apply an antibiotic or dental rinse under the gums to eliminate the possibility of infection. If deep pockets remain underneath the gums even after extensive cleaning, you'll probably need gum surgery.

The goal of surgery is to reduce the size of the pockets and allow the dentist to thoroughly clean away accumulated tartar. The most common procedure, open flap curettage, involves cutting open a small flap in the gum to expose the tooth and root. Damaged tissue is cleaned or removed, and the gum flap is then put back in place.

4. Natural methods

The herb bloodroot contains a chemical compound called sanguinarine, which has potent antibacterial properties. You can buy natural toothpaste and mouthwash containing this ingredient in health-food stores.

Another way to reduce gingivitis is to paint liquid folic acid along the gum line with a cotton swab twice a day. Or you can use a toothpaste that contains coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant that may reduce gum inflammation. Yet another natural method is to massage your gums with powdered vitamin C, then rinse thoroughly with water. You should repeat this treatment once or twice a day for best results.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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