When your gums are healthy, they look pink and feel firm to the touch. They don’t bleed when you brush or floss. Gum health plays a critical role in your overall health, so it’s important to keep your gums as healthy as possible.
Sometimes, though, bacteria in the mouth can lead to an infection of the gums. Your gums might become swollen and irritated. They might bleed easily when you brush or floss. Gum infections are known as periodontitis or periodontal disease. There are several stages of periodontitis and treatment depends on the stage.
What Is Periodontitis?
Periodontitis is an infection of the gums and bone around the teeth. It affects nearly half of adults over the age of 30 in the US and becomes more common with age.
There are several stages of periodontitis. The first stage, gingivitis, is the mildest. It’s also the easiest to treat. When someone has gingivitis, they might notice some redness in the gums and bleeding.
Without treatment, periodontitis usually progresses. The gum tissue pulls away from the teeth. Pockets develop between the gums and teeth. Bacteria tend to live in the pockets, triggering more inflammation. As the disease progresses, the teeth can become loose and bleeding more pronounced. With advanced gum disease, chewing becomes painful.
Non-Surgical Periodontitis Treatment Options
The earliest stages of periodontitis can be treated with non-surgical methods. If your dentist notices the signs of periodontitis during an exam, they are likely to monitor your gum health and recommend a deep cleaning.
A deep cleaning of the teeth and gums, which can include scaling the teeth beneath the gum line to remove tartar, and root planing to remove bacteria and smooth the root’s surface, might be sufficient to treat and reverse gum disease in the earliest stages.
If the disease is a bit more advanced, your dentist might prescribe an antibiotic or an antibacterial mouth rinse to kill off any bacteria in the gums.
Surgical Periodontitis Treatment Options
The more advanced stages of periodontitis may require surgical treatment. A periodontist can evaluate the state of your teeth and gums and let you know if surgery is the best course of treatment. Surgical treatment methods include flap surgery to reduce the size of the pockets between your teeth and gums and grafts to restore lost bone or gum tissue.
After periodontitis treatment, it’s important to take steps to prevent the condition from returning or worsening. The best defense against a gum infection is a good oral hygiene routine. Your dentist might recommend that you brush your teeth after every meal to keep periodontitis away. They might also recommend using an electric toothbrush to clean the teeth thoroughly. Flossing daily is also a must.
You might need to see your periodontist more frequently after treatment to ensure the infection doesn’t return or become worse. That can mean seeing your dentist every few months, rather than twice a year.
Making some changes to your habits can also help prevent periodontitis. For example, people who smoke have a higher risk of developing the disease than non-smokers. Quit smoking or other tobacco products, if you use them. Your dentist can connect you to resources to help you quit.
Treating periodontitis is easier the earlier it’s caught. If you notice any blood when you brush or if your gums feel painful, set up an appointment to explore your options.