How to Treat Gingivitis and Gum Disease
How to Treat Gingivitis and Gum Disease
Do you have periodontitis? Expert tips on periodontics from a dentist.
Gingivitis and periodontitis can lead to damage of the underlying tissues and bones that comprise gums, and in the worst cases, tooth loss. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that as many as 47.2% of people have periodontitis, the more serious of these inflammatory diseases. This number increases to 70% for seniors.
Therefore, it’s important to regularly examine your gums to ensure they’re firm, pink, and snuggly fitted around your teeth. Conversely, discoloured, inflamed, receding, tender, or bleeding gums may be signs of the mouth infection. Changes in the teeth, such as how they fit together, new spaces in between them, looseness, or bad breath may also indicate the need for increased oral hygiene or the intervention of a dentist experienced in periodontics—dentistry concerned with gum disease and the structures that support teeth. Understanding these infections will provide insight into the available forms of gum disease treatment.
While gingivitis is a mild and reversible condition, it shouldn’t be taken lightly, given that it can develop into periodontitis and presents health risks. Symptoms include puffy, dark red, tender, or receding gums, and may bleed when brushing or flossing. Bacterial plaque is the typical culprit behind gingivitis, releasing chemicals that cause painful, swollen gums.
Gingivitis treatment usually begins by cleaning plaque, which reduces inflammation and allows the gums to heal. As a result, teeth-brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash are useful techniques in the prevention and reversing of gingivitis. Patients can supplement this routine by using dental picks or electric toothbrushes, which have been proven to be much more effective in reducing bacteria related to gum disease than manual brushes, according to research in the Angle Orthodontist.
The tricky part about preventing and reversing gingivitis is that it requires continuous care. A paper published in the American Academy of Periodontology references several clinical trials that found that without professional intervention, self-administered plaque control alone is inconsistent in fighting gingivitis in the long-term, an effect that is especially true for patients who have tartar, orthodontic appliances, and or other factors that complicate personal oral hygiene.
This reality is why seeing a dentist for regular teeth cleaning is so important. Professional teeth cleaning is carried out through a process called scaling and root planing; or conventional periodontal therapy, which uses tools to remove tartar and bacteria from teeth and beneath the gums, strip the bacterial residue left over from inflammation, and smooth out root surfaces, creating an inhospitable environment for future build-up.
If gingivitis remains after these treatments, research in the American Academy of Periodontology notes that it may be necessary to address systemic factors like diabetes and pregnancy that can cause inflamed gums.
Periodontitis is a much more problematic periodontal disease than gingivitis.
As inflammation intensifies, bacteria break down the gum tissue, alveolar bone, ligaments, and other structures that hold teeth in place, pulling the gums from the tooth. Typically, periodontitis affects specific teeth, and rarely the entire mouth.
The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research contends that periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults. Like gingivitis, the standard prerequisite of periodontitis is unattended plaque. However, gum disease is complicated, and there are many factors that increase the risk of contraction, such as aging, smoking, obesity, genetics, lack of nutrition, hormonal changes, drug abuse, certain medications and conditions that affect the immune system.
The huge variety of factors that influence periodontitis means that there are many ways a patient can fight against the disease and its symptoms. Like any periodontal disease, good oral hygiene is essential for managing plaque.
The medical journal, Periodontology 2000, published a paper relating that a highly-diluted sodium hypochlorite oral rinse is a safe and effective supplement to conventional oral hygiene, dramatically reducing the amount of plaque on tooth surfaces, inflammation, and bleeding.
In fact, when probed by dentists, patients who used sodium hypochlorite oral rinses showed a 421% improvement in the number of teeth that showed no bleeding. Patients battling with periodontitis should also quit smoking, if they’re in the habit. Another study in Periodontology 2000 found that cigarette smokers are 2.7 times more likely to have moderate to advanced periodontal disease compared to non-smokers.
Additionally, maintaining proper nutrition can ensure healthy teeth and bones. The study also suggested that supplemental calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin C supplements may be useful, as clinical studies revealed that they significantly reduced tooth loss (though calcium and vitamin D were shown to be more useful).
Most importantly, periodontics is critical in fighting periodontitis. Therefore, consulting a dentist is necessary for treating the gum infection.
If the periodontitis is mild or moderate, a combination of scaling, root planning, and antibiotics may be a proficient remedy. However, more severe cases may call for surgical or regenerative periodontal solutions, due to the high level of bone and attachment loss—but the need for these forms of therapy is unique to each patient.
Dentists make small incisions in the gums during flap procedures to perform thorough scaling and root planing. Both gum and bone grafting may also be necessary, replenishing gum tissue and bone in areas where they have dissipated. Similarly, ridge augmentation may be required to restore lost bone tissue critical for the shape and strength of the bone surrounding the roots of teeth.
Given the damage that gingivitis and periodontitis can inflict on gums, it’s vital to pay attention to symptoms that indicate their presence, such as gum recession, bleeding, and inflammation.
Personal oral hygiene techniques can prevent and manage gingivitis; however periodontal therapy, in the form of scaling and root planing, is also needed for consistent results.
Periodontitis necessitates even more self-care, lifestyle changes, and periodontic dentistry than gingivitis. Flap procedures, bone grafting, gum grafting, and ridge augmentation are some of the many different treatments available. However, a dentist’s assessment is necessary to determine the right approach.
If you suspect you may have gum disease, or wish to prevent it, don’t hesitate to book a free consultation with Highmoor Dental, by calling (780) 425-1646.