Gum treatment FAQs
There are a number of factors that can cause, increase the risk of, or worsen gum disease. A main cause is improper teeth cleaning. When teeth aren’t cleaned properly, plaque (a thin film of normal bacteria) can build up, get trapped under the gums and harden into tartar. If tartar builds up, it can interrupt the healthy connection between the teeth and gums and lead to tooth loosening, decay and loss. Other risk factors include:
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Crooked teeth that are hard to keep clean
- Medications, including steroids, certain types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives
Because gum disease is usually painless, you may not know you have it. Look for tell-tale symptoms if you think you might have a problem with the health of your gums. It’s also important to recognise that healthy gums are pale pink and firm. Symptoms of gum disease include:
- Bright red, purplish, or dusky red gums
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Receding gums, which can make teeth look longer than normal
- Bleeding gums
- New spaces developing between teeth
- Bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
- Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
- A change in the way teeth fit together when biting
- Any change in the fit of partial dentures
Gingivitis, characterised by red and irritated or bloody gums, is the milder form of gum disease. Without proper treatment it can lead to the more serious periodontitis, which is defined as inflammation and infection that destroys the tissues that support the teeth, including the gums, the periodontal ligaments, and the tooth sockets. Both are considered to be treatable and, to a certain extent, preventable with consistent, proper oral hygiene. Straumann’s wound-treating topical gel, Emdogain, may be a treatment option for some patients dealing with gum disease.
During an examination, your dental professional will evaluate the health of your gums and measure any pockets that may have formed around your teeth. They also may order x-rays to determine the health of your jaw. From there, they will develop a treatment plan and recommend prevention methods.
Treatment methods for gum disease depend upon how far the condition has progressed. While this first-stage of gum disease usually gets better or reverses after a professional cleaning, proper oral hygiene must be continued at home, or the condition can easily and quickly return. If you have been diagnosed with gum disease, Straumann® Emdogain® may be an effective part of your treatment. Ask your dentist if you might be a good candidate.
Emdogain is a unique topical gel that can improve the healing process after an oral surgery by stimulating certain cells involved in the soft and hard tissues. It contains a mixture of natural proteins that can accelerate wound closure and reduce post-surgical pain and swelling. It is backed by extensive and long-term clinical documentation and is documented in over 1000 scientific publications including 600 clinical publications.
During a therapeutic deep cleaning, the dentist or dental hygienist will remove all plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) with processes called “scaling,” and “dental root planing”. Scaling is the process of removing built-up bacteria above and below the gum line. Dental root planning goes a bit deeper and actually smoothes and cleans the tooth root to help unhealthy gums reattach to the tooth. Your dentist may need to complete this deep cleaning in more than one visit, and will most likely use a local anesthetic like Novocaine to manage your discomfort level during the procedure.
Your dentist may also discuss fixing misaligned teeth or poorly fitting fillings, crowns or bridges to help reduce the chance of plaque building up in hard-to-reach places. They may also recommend an over-the-counter or prescription mouthwash to help reduce and remove bacteria and plaque on your newly-clean teeth. Diligent home care, and twice-yearly professional cleanings will help to keep gingivitis at bay.
If gingivitis is not treated, it may lead to periodontitis, which is a much more serious level of gum disease. Periodontitis can lead to the destruction of gums, mouth bones, tissue, and teeth, and is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults.
If plaque spreads too far below the gum line, toxins can cause the tissues and bone that support the teeth to break down and pull away from the teeth and form spaces called pockets. Pockets can become infected, and if not treated, teeth may cause teeth to become loose, fall out, or have to be removed.
There are both non-surgical and surgical treatments for periodontitis, depending on its severity. Non-surgical treatments are similar to the treatments for gingivitis: scaling, deep root planing, and prescription antibiotics. If surgical intervention is required, your dental professional will discuss the recommended surgical treatment based on the unique details of your situation.
When caught early, gum disease can usually be treated before tooth loss occurs. But, even better than catching it early, is to prevent it altogether. Good and consistent at-home oral care (brushing and flossing) and regular dental checkups and cleanings can go a long way to help keep your gums healthy and disease-free. Some tips include:
- Brush your teeth twice a day. It takes about two minutes to do a thorough job, so don’t rush through it. Don't brush immediately after eating, and don't forget to clean your tongue with a toothbrush or tongue scraper – tongues also collect bacteria.
- Use the proper equipment. Use fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush that fits your mouth comfortably. Electric or battery-operated toothbrushes also help reduce plaque, sometimes even better than a manual brushing.
- Practice good technique. Hold your toothbrush at a slight angle and aim the bristles towards the area where your tooth meets your gum. Gently brush with circular short back-and-forth motions. Don’t press too hard – brushing too hard or with hard bristles can hurt your gums.
- Don’t forget the backs of your teeth. It’s easy to only focus on the fronts, so remember to brush the outside, inside, backs, and chewing surfaces of your teeth.
- Floss gently. Grip the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers, but don’t floss too hard. Guide the floss between your teeth using a gently rubbing motion. When the floss reaches your gum line, curve it against one tooth, making a ‘C’ shape. Don't “saw” the floss or snap it roughly into your gums.
- Floss one tooth at a time. Use the floss to gently rub the side of each tooth in an up-and-down motion. Unwind fresh floss as you progress to the rest of your teeth.
Keep in mind that it doesn't matter if you brush or floss first, as long as you consistently do a thorough job of both.
When caught early, gum disease can usually be treated before tooth loss occurs. During a regular dental visit, your dentist can determine the extent of the damage and work with you on a treatment plan. Both types of gum diseases are fairly common among adults in the United States and both generally can be reversed, or their symptoms lessened, with effective care consisting of professional cleaning at your dental office followed by daily brushing and flossing.
Even better than catching it early, is to prevent it altogether. Good – and consistent – at-home oral care and regular dental checkups and cleanings can go a long way to help keep your gums healthy and disease-free.
Although gum disease is quite common, let untreated it can lead to more serious health situations including loosening and loss of teeth and erosion of bone tissue in the jaw. Some studies have shown that advanced gum disease can lead to other serious health complications such as infections, heart disease and diabetes*.
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About Gum Recession
Gum recession happens when the surface of the gums that surrounds your teeth becomes unhealthy and begins to pull away from your teeth. Left untreated, it can expose more of your teeth than is welcome, and eventually expose the roots. When gums recede, they form gaps or “pockets” that make it easier for food and bacterial to build up, leading to gingivitis and periodontitis. In severe cases, the jaw bone and other facial structures can become damaged, which can ultimately lead to tooth loss.
Gum recession is a common problem and usually begins slowly. Although some degree of gum recession is quite common, especially as a patient ages, advanced situations allow the teeth to become more susceptible to decay and damage. With proper professional care and diligent at-home care, gum recession can be treated and in some cases, reversed.
Gums can recede for a variety of reasons including:
- Gum disease
- Poor dental care
- Certain genetic traits
- Brushing too hard
- Crooked teeth
One of the main ways you can tell if your gums are receding is to look at them closely in the mirror. If you begin to see peaks forming, the tops of your teeth exposed, or even in extreme cases root exposure, you are probably experience some degree of gum recession. Another common symptom of gum recession is sensitivity to hot and cold food or drink.
Depending upon the severity of the case, there are a variety of ways to treat this condition. Less severe cases can benefit from a professional dental cleaning that will include scaling and planning. More severe cases may include antibiotic treatments, and in the most severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary. In some cases, topical treatments such as Straumann’s Emdogain may be helpful.
In many cases, professional intervention and increased and consistent at-home care can reduce the gum line and in some cases restore your gums to a fully healthy state. It’s important to keep in mind that gum recession can return without proper care.
If gums are allowed to recede, over time the tissue will deteriorate. Food and bacteria can build up and continue to damage the gums to the point that tooth and bone tissue may become compromised. If this happens, and is left untreated, tooth loosening and loss becomes more of a risk.
Similar to the prevention of gum disease discussed above, proper oral care which includes daily brushing and flossing can help keep your gums healthy and working properly.
As with gum disease, the earlier you catch and treat receding gums, the better chance you have to treat and reverse the damage it can cause.
If you already have a dentist, that’s the best place to start the discussion about gum treatment and care. If you don’t have a dentist, you can find one here.
Every surgical procedure carries potential risks. You should always consult with a dental professional prior to treatment. Potential risk factors may vary depending on medical or other conditions of each patient. The possibility of immediate placement and the use of a prosthetic tooth depends on many factors, such as bone presence and quality, dental history, implant location, and availability of the final restoration. Your clinician will fully describe the possible scenarios to you during consultation prior to surgery. Every surgical procedure carries potential risks. Consult your clinician to find out if dental implants are right for you.