In the previous installments here and here of our Periodontal Maintenance series we explained what periodontal/gum disease is, how to recognize it, known risk factors, and how to prevent it. For our last installment, it’s time to explore the treatment options for gum disease and proper follow-up procedures.
Treating gum disease
Depending on how far the periodontal disease has progressed, there are different viable treatment options. The key to maintaining a healthy mouth is preventing gum disease, but when that doesn’t happen, early treatment is the best course.
- Early stage/gingivitis – Usually a professional cleaning is an effective treatment at this stage followed by adhering to the advice of dental professionals to improve oral health.
- Mid-stage gum disease – When gum disease progresses past gingivitis, a more intensive cleaning called scaling and root planing may be required. During this type of cleaning, plaque and tartar are removed down to the bottom of each gum pocket, and the root surfaces are cleaned and smoothed. This kind of treatment is also called deep cleaning or periodontal cleaning and can take multiple visits.
- Severe gum disease – If the pockets don’t heal after the scaling and root planing, then periodontal surgery is the next probable step. During periodontal surgery, the dentist removes tartar and plague in difficult areas and then stitches the gums into place, so they hug the teeth tightly again. This surgery reduces gum pocket death and makes it easier to maintain clean teeth and healthy gums.
- Gum disease with damaged bone – When the gum disease has damaged the bone, a different type of dental surgery such as a gum or bone graft is required. During this procedure, the dentist removes diseased tissue from the gum pocket and reshapes the bone if necessary. Then a membrane layer is placed at the surgical area to help the gums stay in place until the root reattaches to the ligament with a membrane layer. Following a bone graft and guided tissue regeneration, the dentist applies a protective dressing over gums and teeth and prescribes a mouth rinse, antibiotics, and a pain reliever.
Following any treatment for gum disease, your dental professional will increase the frequency of your visits, even if only temporarily. Other follow-up care steps include:
- Deeper cleanings
- Daily cleanings at home, twice a day of teeth and gums
- Medicines to speed healing, control infection and reduce pain
- Quitting tobacco use
- Managing diseases such as diabetes that are linked to gum disease
With proper oral health practices and post-treatment care, gum disease can be diminished or reversed. There’s no reason to lose teeth to gum disease when you know all the steps for prevention and treatment. Practice healthy smile tips from the ADA including brushing daily with fluoride toothpaste, flossing at least once a day, eating a healthy diet with limited snacks, and scheduling regular dental visits.