Research has shown that more 8% of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have periodontal disease, and more than half of those cases are considered severe.  Fortunately, periodontal disease is preventable through consistent good oral hygiene habits and regular dental exams.  Here are some tips for treating gum disease, and from preventing it in the first place.

Practicing good oral hygiene isn’t just about your teeth – it plays an important role in the health of your mouth as a whole, from your tongue to your cheeks to your gums.  Even if you think you are already taking proper care of your teeth, disclosing tablets may reveal a different story.  Try using disclosing tablets after your daily oral hygiene routine.  The tablets will reveal plaque that remains, which can help identify what you might be missing.  Use the tablets periodically to ensure that there is no significant plaque buildup – if excessive plaque is present, it may be time to visit the dentist for an exam and cleaning.

Brushing your teeth twice a day helps kill germs, reduce plaque, and minimize the risk of infection.  Brush thoroughly and carefully, but don’t brush too hard.  Be sure to brush your tongue as well as your teeth. 

Once a day, you should also floss your teeth.  This can help remove food and buildup from between teeth, an important part of gum health.  Food that is trapped against the gum can create the ideal environment for bacteria to grow and thrive, and can contribute to gum-irritating plaque buildup.

Follow with an antiseptic mouthwash.  This helps to flush any loosened food and plaque, kills germs, and freshens breath. 

Improper or inconsistent oral hygiene can lead to gum disease.  If gum disease occurs, there are various treatments available, depending on the severity of the disease and the extent of damage to the gum tissues.  Treatments include both surgical and non-surgical options.

Scaling and root planing form a common non-surgical approach to treating gum disease.  In a scaling and planing procedure, the patient is typically given a local anesthetic to prevent pain.  The dentist carefully scrapes away the plaque that has built up on the tooth and below the gumline.  This smoothes the tooth, removing the surfaces where bacteria can accumulate.  Scaling and planing treatments are typically done in stages, often treating a different quadrant in each visit.  Regular maintenance will likely be necessary to promote continued recovery of damaged gum tissue.  As the gums heal, they will be able to form a proper protective barrier against the teeth.  Careful adherence to a daily hygiene routine will be necessary to prevent the recurrence of gum disease.

If gum disease is severe and cannot be treated non-surgically, surgical procedures may be necessary.  Procedures include pocket reduction surgery, crown lengthening, gum grafts and regenerative procedures.  Which procedure your dentist chooses will depend largely on your specific situation.  Advances in technology and methodology have helped improve the effectiveness of these procedures, and many can be conducted with minimal pain or discomfort. 

The best treatment for gum disease is preventing it from happening in the first place.  Practice good oral hygiene every day, and see your dentist regularly for exams.  Treat any signs of periodontal problems as soon as you encounter them to prevent progression to more advanced gum disease, and consult your dentist with any questions you may have about gum health and what you can do to protect yourself from gum disease.