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"HEALTHY TEETH AND GUMS FOR LIFE"

How Does a Dentist Treat Gum Disease?

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is a common but preventable condition that affects the gum tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. It starts with bacterial growth in the mouth and, if left untreated, can progress to a serious infection that damages the gums and jaw bone. 

Stages of Gum Disease

It’s important to be aware of the different stages of gum disease, as the treatment will depend on how far it has progressed.

Early Stages: Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the initial stage of gum disease. The gums are inflamed because of plaque buildup along the gumline. You may notice your gums are red, swollen, and tender, and may bleed when you brush or floss. Bad breath is another common symptom.

Dentists typically recommend professional dental cleaning to remove plaque and tartar buildup, Improving oral hygiene practices at home will also help. Gingivitis is reversible, but if left untreated, it will progress to periodontitis, where permanent damage can occur.

Middle Stages: Periodontitis

At this stage, the gums start to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets that are infected. Sore, bleeding gums become more noticeable and severe, and start to recede. Teeth may start to feel loose, and your bite may start to change. Periodontitis can result in irreversible damage to the gums and bone supporting the teeth, leading to tooth loss.

Treatment typically includes scaling and root planing to remove plaque and tartar from below the gum line, antibiotic therapy, and, as periodontitis progresses, possibly surgical procedures.

Later Stages: Advanced Periodontitis

In advanced periodontitis, gums are severely infected, and the infection spreads to the supporting bone and tissues that hold teeth in place. Symptoms include severe gum recession, loose teeth and tooth loss, abscesses, and significant changes in the bite pattern. Treatment options include advanced surgical procedures to address damage. Tooth extraction may occasionally be necessary.

patient at dental hygienists office

Treatments

Professional Dental Cleaning

Professional cleanings by a dental hygienist remove plaque and tartar buildup, reducing inflammation and preventing progression to more severe gum disease stages. Regular professional cleanings can also help prevent gum disease before it starts.

Scaling and Root Planing

Scaling and root planing removes heavier buildups of plaque and tartar, and is effective for treating early to moderate stages of gum disease. With scaling, a dental hygienist uses dental tools or ultrasonic devices to remove these buildups from the tooth surfaces and below the gumline. Root planing smooths rough spots on tooth roots to prevent bacterial attachment, and promotes gum reattachment to the teeth.

By thoroughly cleaning, these procedures remove plaque and tartar buildup from below the gum line, where conventional brushing and flossing cannot reach. They help control bacterial infection and inflammation in the gums and can help the gums reattach to the teeth.

antibiotics

Antibiotic Therapy

Antibiotics may be prescribed to control bacterial infection and inflammation in the gums. They are usually used in conjunction with other treatments. 

Antibiotics target and eliminate the oral bacteria that contribute to gum disease, treating cases where scaling and root planing alone may not be sufficient to control bacterial growth. This treatment may be used in various stages of gum disease.

A prescription of oral antibiotics, such as amoxicillin, doxycycline, or metronidazole, may be given. Alternately, antibiotic gels or mouth rinses can be applied directly to the affected gum tissues to target localized infection; antibiotic agents may also be inserted into gum pockets during scaling and root planing procedures.

Surgical Procedures

Surgical interventions like flap surgery, bone grafting, and guided tissue regeneration aim to repair damaged gum and bone tissues, reduce pocket depths, and promote gum and bone regeneration. They treat advanced stages of gum disease, where significant gum and bone tissue damage has occurred.

Flap surgery treats gum recession, and involves lifting the gums to access and clean deep gum pockets, removing tartar deposits and diseased tissue before repositioning the gums to fit around the teeth. Bone grafting involves placing bone grafts into areas of bone loss to stimulate new bone growth and restore structural support around the teeth. With guided tissue, a membrane is placed between the bone and gums to promote healthy regeneration of bone and gum tissues.

smiling-young-african-american-woman bathrobe flossing teeth bathroom

Preventive Measures

There are some things you can do to help prevent gum disease, or prevent it from worsening.

Brushing teeth twice per day with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and using an antimicrobial mouthwash can help remove plaque and prevent gum disease, and is a critical first step. Also, avoiding tobacco use, maintaining a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and managing stress can reduce the risk of gum disease.

Be sure to schedule routine dental visits; this allows your dentist to regularly examine, detect and treat gum disease in its earliest stages, before it progresses to more severe forms. Additionally, regular dental cleanings work best if done frequently enough to be proactive.

If you have concerns about your gums, see your dentist as soon as possible. Don’t delay seeking treatment, as this just allows it to get worse. Gateshead Dental offers dental services for your whole family, including treatment of gum disease. We’ll answer all of your questions, educate you on best practices, and discuss an individual treatment plan to address your gum disease if you have it.

Dr. Christopher Sims
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