The first stage of gingivitis treatment is to visit your dentist for a thorough check-up of your teeth and gums. This check-up will include your dentist doing some or all of the following:
- Looking for tartar deposits on your teeth, including under the gum-line.
- Checking plaque build-up and your dental hygiene levels.
- Detecting any bleeding from your gums.
- Measuring under your gum to determine the extent of any gingivitis and periodontal disease.
- Checking for any increased mobility, i.e. are any of the teeth looser than they should be.
- X-rays may be necessary to give further information.
Gingivitis Treatment: What Can be Done About Gum Disease?
The appropriate procedures necessary will depend on the extent of the gum disease, i.e. how deep the problem is.
Gingivitis is a reversible disease. With a thorough professional cleaning and improving your oral hygiene as advised by your dentist, the problem can quickly go away.
However if periodontal disease is present, you will need further work. Note that this cannot be completely cured or reversed. The aim of any treatment is to slow down and stop progression of the condition. If the disease is left untreated for years, controlling the problem can be more difficult. Hence it is better to attend the dentist early. You may need to referred to a specialist, periodontist, if your problem is deemed severe – read more on these specialists here.
- Initial gum disease treatment involves ‘scaling and root planing‘. The scaling removes any surrounding tartar including that under the gums. Root planing will make these areas under the gum smoother and so easier for you to keep clean, as plaque builds up more on rough surfaces. This routine is usually done under local anesthetic.
- In moderate to severe cases, periodontal surgery may be necessary. Antibiotics may also be prescribed. This can help the dentist gain access to clean things better, or to reshape the tissues to enable you to clean them better. Other surgery may be used to try to remedy the effects of recession and bone loss.
- Teeth that have a hopeless prognosis may be extracted.
See a more detailed article on periodontal disease control here.
If you have any acute symptoms like pain or tenderness, and need some at-home treatment while waiting to see your dentist, try these:
- Use an antiseptic mouth rinse, even salt water will suffice. Over the counter mouthwashes like listerine or corsodyl may be better.
- Chlorhexidine gel can be applied to localized areas of tenderness.
- ‘Numbing’ mouthwashes that contain a local anesthetic may help.
Dental work will always need to be followed up by proper oral hygiene (at home) and maintenance care at the dentist. If plaque and tartar is allowed to build up again, the disease will continue to progress. As outcomes are not as good for smokers, it is important to try to cut down or quit.
There are some side effect symptoms of periodontitis and gingivitis treatment, and these can be more severe depending on the severity of your condition. As successful outcomes will reduce the swelling in the gums, the tissues may shrink back (recede). This will make your teeth look longer and the recession may make them sensitive to hot and cold. This can be managed with help from your dentist, and things you can do at home to help treat sensitivity.
Prevention: Much Better Than Cure!
Preventing gingivitis from taking a hold and becoming established in the gums is much more preferable than needing treatment for it. The problem with gum disease is that if it spreads to strip the tissues and affect the bone that holds the teeth, this damage is irreversible. Damaged gum and bone cannot be grown back once it reaches this stage. Dental work can then only slow down or stop the condition from spreading.
So prevention is key. Prevention of any gum problems is a major natural benefit of good dental hygiene routines.
If you do have some form of gum disease, then once your dentist has helped get them healthy again it is up to you to keep them that way! A maintenance program with a good oral hygiene routine at home and regular professional cleanings is key to preventing the problem from worsening.
Prevention will depend on the exact causes of your gingivitis. However, the main points to bear in mind are:
- Brush twice a day, in the morning and again at night. Ensure that you employ a good brushing technique and spend at least two minutes brushing. Use the best mouthwash your dentist recommends
- Clean between the teeth by flossing at least once a day. Alternatively your dentist may advise using inter-dental brushes. Use disclosing tablets to check how well you are cleaning
- Attend the dentist every six months for a professional cleaning. This will remove any tartar that builds up and make it easier for you to clean your teeth properly
- Smoking should be cut down (ask for over the counter patches, gum etc.) and ideally stopped altogether
- Diabetics need to ensure their blood levels are kept under control as best as possible
- Dentures must be kept clean and removed at night.
You have seen that the exact gingivitis treatment will depend on how bad the disease is. The best thing to do is to ensure regular check-ups and cleanings at the dentist and keep up a high standard of oral hygiene at home (lots of advice here). Prevention is very important as severe disease cannot be reversed.
If you have the more severe problem, that is periodontitis, see a more detailed article on periodontal disease treatment here.