Can My Dentist Cure Gum Disease?
Treating Gum Disease With Your Dentist
Gum disease is sneaky. It’s an expert at slipping in and going unnoticed because it’s often completely painless until in very advanced stages. In fact, nearly half of all American adults who are 30 years old or more have signs of gum disease. That’s surprisingly common, right? Despite this, you may not have heard much about how gum disease is treated. If this has left you wondering whether or not your dentist can cure gum disease, don’t worry! It’s very treatable. How your dentist will go about treating your gum disease depends on several factors, including the type and severity of gum disease you have. To help you feel more comfortable and confident in your treatment, we’ve put together a guide on what you can expect from your periodontal treatment.
Different Stages of Gum Disease
There are two main types of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the least severe type of gum disease. In a gingivitis case, bacteria irritate your gums, causing them to become inflamed and to bleed easily. If gingivitis goes untreated, it can develop into periodontitis, which is a more severe form of gum disease where your gums begin to pull away from your teeth, allowing bacteria underneath the gum line to attack the roots and supporting structures of your teeth. Additionally, if left untreated, it can eventually lead to tooth loss.
As periodontitis progresses, there are several stages it goes through. Early periodontitis is characterized by receding gums that bleed easily when you floss or even brush your teeth. As your gums recede, small pockets begin developing between your gums and teeth. You may even begin to experience a small amount of bone loss. In moderate periodontitis, these symptoms worsen and bone loss can begin to make your teeth feel a little loose. You may also begin experiencing tooth pain at this stage. Once you’ve reached the advanced stage of periodontitis, extensive damage has been done to your gums and the supporting structures of your teeth, causing them to become noticeably loose and painful. At this stage, it’s much more likely that you’ll lose teeth, so it’s important to do your best to seek treatment before it gets to this point.
Gingivitis, Simpler to Treat
Since gingivitis is the least severe form of gum disease, it’s generally simple to treat at home using a regular, thorough oral hygiene routine. This means you should brush your teeth for two minutes twice a day, floss at least once a day, and use an antibacterial mouthwash daily. Flossing is particularly important for treating and preventing gingivitis, so make sure not to skip it even after your gums have recovered! You’ll likely experience bleeding gums when you first start flossing regularly, but this should begin to go away as your gum disease begins to heal. Your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics to help you fight off infection while you get your gingivitis under control.
Periodontitis, More Complex
Periodontitis is a more advanced form of gum disease, so it takes more involved treatments at a dental office to kick it to the curb. Thankfully, modern dentistry has plenty of nonsurgical and surgical treatment options to help your gums conquer periodontitis and get back to full health. How severe your case of periodontitis is will determine which type of treatment you’ll likely need. Generally, your dentist will start with more conservative treatments and advance to surgical treatments if your gums need more help to become healthy again. Your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics alongside these treatments to help prevent complications like an infection.
Root Scaling and Planing
Scaling and planing are two nonsurgical treatment options that are often used together to treat periodontitis. Root scaling involves your dentist administering a localized anesthetic before performing a deep clean on your gums, using specially designed tools to clean bacteria from the surface of your tooth roots. Once your tooth roots are clean, your dentist performs root planing. This procedure smooths the surface of your tooth roots, which makes it harder for bacteria to grow on them in the future. Planing also provides the optimal surface for your gums to reattach to as they heal.
After your gums have had the chance to heal for a few weeks, you’ll need to return to the dentist to ensure that they’re recovering properly and that any pockets between your teeth and gums are closing. If you have early stage periodontitis, this might be the only treatment you need for gum disease, but more serious cases of periodontitis might still need other treatments.
Pocket Reduction Procedure
During this surgical procedure, your dentist numbs your mouth and then makes a small incision in your gums. This allows the dentist to fold your gums back so that they can clean your tooth roots directly, allowing for a more thorough removal of bacteria. Just like with root scaling and planing, your dentist will also smooth the surface of your tooth roots. When they close your gums back up, your dentist will place them snugly against your teeth, reducing the size of the pockets between your gums and teeth and making it easier for your gums to reattach. When the procedure is complete, your dentist will send you home with care instructions to help make the healing process as easy as possible. Your gums will likely take about two weeks to heal from the procedure, after which you’ll need to return to the office for a checkup.
Periodontal Abscess Treatment
Periodontal abscesses are a potential symptom of advanced periodontitis. This is a localized infection on your gums that looks like a red, swollen knot or bump on your gums and can be quite painful. Thankfully, treating this symptom of gum disease is relatively simple. Your dentist will need to drain the abscess and clean the area incredibly well. They will also likely send you home with a prescription for antibiotics to ensure that the infection is taken care of. It can take one or two weeks for the wound left behind by the abscess to heal completely.
Any stage of periodontitis can lead to gum recession, but as it progresses and gum recession worsens, it can begin to expose the sensitive roots of your teeth. Your gums can’t bounce back from this damage on their own, but gum grafts can help! During this procedure, your dentist will take gum tissue from you or a donor and place it over your exposed tooth roots. Your gums will take a couple of weeks to heal fully, but the result improves the appearance of your gum line, reduces tooth sensitivity, and protects your vulnerable tooth roots from decay, giving you healthier teeth and gums in the long run.
Periodontitis can also lead to bone loss in your jaw, lowering its bone density and impacting the health of your teeth. Bone grafts use either donor or synthetic bone to encourage your jaw bone to grow back, becoming strong and healthy again. If you’ve lost teeth and bone density in your jaw due to gum disease, this is sometimes a necessary step to allow you to get dental implants. Your gums will heal from the procedure in about two weeks, but the bone will need about three months to heal and grow around the graft. The result is often worth it, however, giving you a stronger, healthier jaw.
Gum disease might be common, but it’s not a small issue. Diagnosing and treating gum disease as early as possible helps prevent long-term impacts on your oral and overall health. Thankfully, gum disease is far from inevitable! It’s easy to prevent with great oral hygiene and regular visits to your dentist. If you’d like to learn more about periodontal treatment or how to prevent gum disease, feel free to call and schedule a consultation at any time.