Gum Disease - Topic Overview
How is gum disease diagnosed?
To find out if you have gum disease, your dentist or dental hygienist will do an exam to look for:
- Hard buildups of plaque and tartar above and below the gums.
- Areas where your gums are pulling away or shrinking from your teeth.
- Pockets that have grown between your teeth and gums.
Your dentist or dental hygienist may take X-rays of your teeth to look for bone damage and other problems.
How is it treated?
Early treatment of gum disease is very important. It can help prevent permanent gum damage, control infection, and prevent tooth loss. For treatment to work:
- Brush your teeth 2 times a day and floss 1 time a day.
- See your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings.
- Don't smoke or use any tobacco products.
For gingivitis, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to help fight the infection. They can be put directly on the gums, swallowed as pills or capsules, or swished around your teeth as mouthwash. Your dentist may also recommend an antibacterial toothpaste that reduces plaque and gingivitis when used regularly.
For periodontitis, your dentist or dental hygienist may clean your teeth using a method called root planing and scaling. This removes the plaque and tartar buildup both above and below the gum line.
You may need surgery if these treatments don't control the infection or if you have severe damage to your gums or teeth. Surgery options include:
- Gingivectomy to get rid of the pockets between the teeth and gums where plaque can build up.
- A flap procedure to clean the roots of a tooth and repair bone damage.
- Extraction to remove loose or very damaged teeth.
After surgery, you may need to take antibiotics or other medicines to aid healing and prevent infection.
After treatment, keep your mouth disease-free by brushing and flossing to prevent plaque buildup. Your dentist will probably prescribe an antibacterial mouthwash.
How can you prevent gum disease?
Gum disease is most common in adults, but it can affect anyone, even children. So good dental habits are important throughout your life.
- Brush your teeth 2 times a day, in the morning and before bedtime, with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss once each day.
- Visit your dentist for regular checkups and teeth cleaning.
- Don't use tobacco products.