Managing Gum Disease

Gum disease  (also called periodontal disease) is an infection of the gums caused by bacteria in the mouth. The milder form, which affects the gums only, is called gingivitis. In more severe cases, gum disease can also affect the jawbone.

What are the symptoms of gum disease?

Early symptoms of gum disease are redness or bleeding of the gums from brushing teeth, using dental floss, or biting into hard food such as apples. Other symptoms include swelling of the gums, bad breath, and gums that draw away from the teeth. As gum disease worsens, deep pockets may appear between the teeth.

What happens without treatment?

Without treatment, the attachment of the tooth to the gum and even to the bone will become damaged. Eventually, some teeth could become loose and fall out. Studies suggest that there may be an association between gum disease and other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. In addition, pregnant women with gum disease may be more likely to have premature babies. Therefore, it's important to get professional dental treatment and to let your medical doctor know if you have been diagnosed with gum disease.

How is gum disease treated?

The first treatment a dentist will most often suggest is a deep cleaning. This involves scraping below the gum line to remove plaque deposits and the bacteria that is damaging your gums. A dentist may also recommend a medicated mouthrinse such as Chlorhexidine or prescription fluoride toothpaste to use at home. Some people may need gum surgery. The level of treatment will depend on the seriousness of the gum disease and how a patient responds to previous treatments. Because gum disease can easily recur, professional maintenance care with a dentist or hygienist is also required.

How can I prevent or manage gum disease?

Successful prevention or management of gum disease begins with good oral health habits. These include brushing twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Flossing every day is also necessary. You should visit your dentist at least every six months for oral exams and cleanings and be sure to use any at-home products your dentist recommends such as a mouthrinse or prescription fluoride toothpaste. Finally, do not chew or smoke tobacco, as this can lead to infected gums.