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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:

  • Bleeding gums.
  • 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.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: May 29, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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