If your dentist has recently informed you that you have periodontal disease or gingivitis, you may be concerned about the future of your teeth. Will you need dentures or expensive dental surgery? How can you help preserve your remaining gum tissue and keep it healthy? Fortunately, a number of advances in dental technology can allow you to regain healthy teeth and gums -- even if your gum disease is fairly advanced. Read on to learn more about the available treatments for gingivitis and periodontal disease, as well as some situations in which you may be able to manage your gum disease at home, without treatment.
Can you reverse the effects of gingivitis without treatment?
Depending upon the severity of your gum disease, you may be able to stop or even reverse its effects simply by stepping up your home dental care routine. Gum disease often begins with inadequate brushing and flossing that doesn't quite remove all the food particles on or within your teeth. The bacteria that naturally live in your mouth will attack and consume these food particles, leaving behind a sticky, yellowish substance called tartar.
As tartar forms on or near your gum line, the bacteria that feed on this substance may migrate from the surface of your teeth beneath your gums, where they begin to attack your sensitive gum tissue. This bacterial infection causes your gums to become red and inflamed (you may start to notice some tenderness or bleeding while brushing or flossing). Over time, your gum tissue will begin to shrink and draw away from your teeth, leaving them even more susceptible to damage from acidic food and drink.
If you're still in the early stages of gingivitis, and perhaps are experiencing only some occasional sensitivity and bleeding, you may be able to eliminate this gingivitis-causing bacteria from beneath your gums by brushing and flossing twice per day until you're no longer experiencing symptoms of gingivitis. Depending upon the progress you've made by your next checkup, your dentist may even declare you gingivitis-free.
What treatments are available for periodontal disease?
If you've gone beyond gingivitis and are beginning to suffer erosion of your gums or weakening of your teeth, you may require some more extensive treatment to restore your gum tissue and prevent further damage. There are several options available.
- Laser gum therapy
This treatment is often a more desirable option than surgery, and can be effective for moderate to severe cases of periodontal disease. The goals of all periodontal disease treatment are to eliminate the bacteria from your teeth and gums and to remove any damaged or dead tissue. Laser treatment accomplishes both goals by using a directed, high-frequency laser beam to kill off bacteria and dissolve any dead tissue. Because this laser beam operates at a specific frequency designed to eliminate only dead or dying tissue, it poses no harm to healthy tissue, and is relatively pain-free when compared to other surgical options.
- Periodontal surgery
Another potential option is the surgical flushing of bacteria and closing of the openings or "pockets" that may have formed around your teeth. Once these pockets have been eliminated of bacteria and closed (and your teeth cleaned), you should be back to square one -- gingivitis and periodontal disease-free. However, your gums are now more susceptible to reinfection, so you'll want to get more info and bump up the frequency of your brushing and flossing to ensure that your treatment is long-lasting. If you're a smoker or tobacco chewer, quitting before your surgery will significantly increase your odds of a successful recovery, as nicotine use can damage the tiny blood vessels that carry oxygen to your gums.