Gum disease

Treatment of Gum Infections

Inflammation and infection of the gums is caused by plaque, a thick film of bacteria that builds up on teeth due to poor oral hygiene. This can harden and become calculus or tartar which cause damage to the gums which can in turn cause gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums. This can be treated by removal of plaque and calculus followed by regular flossing and brushing.

A more advanced stage of gum disease is called periodontitis. It can cause serious damage to the bone that supports the teeth as well as the gums. Pockets may form between the gum and teeth and cause teeth to fall out and require extraction.

Gum Disease
Gum Disease

Benefits of treatment

  • A mouth that feels, looks, and is healthier
  • Teeth that feel smooth and look clean
  • A better chance of keeping your teeth for life

Signs of periodontal disease

  • Red, swollen, tender, painful, or bleeding gums
  • Gums have shrunk from teeth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Bad taste in the mouth
  • Abscesses between teeth and gums
  • Fit of denture has changed
  • Loose teeth

Diagnosis of periodontal disease

Your dentist will examine your teeth and gums, noting if plaque and calculus are present. Change in size, shape, appearance, and texture of the gums will also be noted and may indicate disease. An x-ray of your mouth may be taken to check whether the bony socket around each tooth is healthy.

Any previous health problems may be noted as it can affect your treatment and medication. Give your dentist/periodontist your complete dental and medical history including any major illnesses such as heart problems, allergies, or previous surgery.

Treatment of Periodontal Disease

This involves any of the following:

  • Removal of built-up plaque and calculus.
  • Scaling – The tooth surface is cleaned to remove plaque and calculus above the gum line and in shallow pockets below.
  • Root planing – Plaque and calculus on tooth roots and in deeper pockets are removed. A local anaesthetic may be needed. This may require several visits for different areas of the mouth.
  • Replacement of fillings that contribute to gum disease.
  • Instructions on how to improve your oral hygiene.
  • Quitting smoking.

If after the treatment your gums have not healed well, you may need to take a course of antibiotics. In severe cases, periodontal surgery may be required.

Side effects

  • Pain during scaling and root planing
  • Gum tenderness
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Gum shrinkage – more likely to occur if gum tissues are swollen at the start of treatment
  • Increased risk of decay around exposed root surfaces

Preventing and controlling periodontal disease

  • Excellent oral hygiene
  • Routine removal of plaque and calculus
  • Treatment of enlarged gum pockets

As gum diseases tend to recur, maintenance therapy is important. You and your dentist/periodontist will work together to prevent, monitor, and control periodontitis. Ask for more information on plaque-controlling techniques. Depending on the health of your gums, you may need to visit your dentist as often as every three months so that plaque under the gums can be removed, reducing the risk of further gum disease.