Untreated gum disease can lead to tooth loss and other health issues, but many people are fearful when it comes to treatment. Thankfully, there are several non-surgical methods for treating gum disease that are effective and nearly painless. At your next preventative care appointment, ask your dentist about these options:
Professional Dental Cleaning
While not a direct treatment for active gum disease, regular professional dental cleanings are important for keeping gums healthy. These regular cleanings remove plaque and tartar both above and at the gum line.
Regular preventative care visits also allow your dentist to keep on eye on your gum health. If they’re seeing signs of gum disease, you may be advised to make more frequent visits or come in for further treatment.
Scaling and Root Planing
If there is plaque under the gums that needs to be removed, your dentist may recommend scaling and root planing. Don’t worry, it’s not as scary as it sounds!
This procedure is a deep-cleaning of the root surfaces. It’s a nonsurgical procedure and done under local anesthetic.
Scaling is the process of scraping to remove plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line. Planing is the smoothing of rough spots on the tooth root – this removes bacteria and helps the gums to reattach to the teeth.
After 6 weeks, your dentist will re-examine you to see if the treatment was a success. If the gum disease is completely eliminated, you’ll only need maintenance every few months. Sometimes, however, other treatment is required.
Antibiotics can be used alone or with other treatments to reduce the bacteria associated with gum disease.
Chlorhexidine, available by prescription only, is an antimicrobial rinse that can help control plaque and gingivitis. Other antibiotics are available to take in pill form. Ask your dentist what’s right for you.
There is also a nonprescription toothpaste available that can help. It contains fluoride and an antibiotic, triclosan, to reduce plaque and gingivitis.
If gum disease goes unchecked, it can lead to tooth loss and the added expense of dental implants, as well as other health problems. As daunting as the task may seem, it’s important to seek treatment early to preserve gum, bone, and tooth health.