Gum Disease Treatment Without Surgery
Gingivitis and Periodontitis are referred to as periodontal (gum) diseases. Both are serious issues, involving bad breath, irritation and bleeding of the gums, and eventually pain, swelling and possibly bone loss. If caught early enough, gingivitis, the milder form of gum disease, can be treated very successfully without surgery.
Not only is flossing an excellent and essential way to prevent gum disease, it is also part of the treatment for gum disease. Flossing allows you to reach the area between the teeth and gums where bacteria can hide, develop into plaque and become infected. Proper flossing keeps the area around and beneath the gums plaque-free and stimulates a healthy blood flow to the gums.
Studies have shown that flossing can reduce gum bleeding by as much as 40% more than brushing alone.1 Adding regular flossing to your dental care regime is a start. The rest is up to your dentist or periodontist (a dental specialist who treats gum diseases).
One of your dentist’s first nonsurgical treatments will be a special deep cleaning, also called a periodontal cleaning. This treatment is known as “scaling and root planing” and it is done to remove the deeper levels of plaque and tartar around the gums and on the root surfaces. It will help heal the gum tissue and shrink the periodontal pockets. Periodontal pockets form when the space between the gum and the tooth, known as the sulcus reaches more that 3 millimeters in depth. Because the normal depth of the sulcus is 3 millimeters or less and can easily be cleaned with brushing and flossing, a space greater than that causes a periodontal pocket, which is a real problem because toothbrush bristles and dental floss won’t reach the deeper areas. This allows food debris and microbes to build up between the teeth and gums and bacteria to form, causing the periodontal pocket to enlarge and become infected. Tooth and bone loss is an eventuality if left untreated. A good clue that this has happened is bleeding when you brush or when the dentist probes the gum area. When your dentist sees signs of bleeding such as this she will advise you to take immediate action.
Antibiotics are often used, either alone or in conjunction with other treatments, to kill the bacteria under the gums and around the bone, and to prevent further deterioration. Another nonsurgical treatment involves the use of an antimicrobial rinse of Chlorhexidine. This comes in prescription-only brands of mouthwash and in some over-the-counter products. It comes as either a mouth rinse to use at home or as a gelatin-filled chip that your dentist inserts in the periodontal pockets after scaling and root planing. Sometimes oral antibiotics, such as tetracycline or doxycycline, are prescribed by your dentist to boost the bacteria killing process, typically for more serious levels of gum infection.
Permanent adherence to good oral hygiene practices is the last step, if your periodontal disease can be treated without surgery. Let this be something of a “wake-up call” and convince you to be conscientious about about your home dental care routine. It should include twice-daily brushing, lasting 2 to 3 minutes, and flossing. If you want to get really serious, brush after you eat, even snacks, because allowing sugars and food debris to stay on and around the teeth encourages the buildup of plaque and promotes development of bacteria.
Your dentist or periodontist will give you advice about how to floss to get the most benefit from it, and what to do if you have crowded or extremely close teeth that make it difficult to get the floss in and out. There are other tools you can use, such as rubber tipped gum stimulators and specially designed picks and probes, that could also be helpful. Floss comes in a wild and wide variety flavors, styles and shapes: flat, rolled, think, waxed, unwaxed … the list is long.
Pick what works best for you, and follow your dentist’s advice on what to use and how to use it.