When good oral hygiene habits are not kept, not only the teeth can get damaged (cavities), but the gums as well. The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis, and it is the easiest to treat. Allowing the condition to worsen can lead to tooth loss. There are both surgical and nonsurgical treatments for gum disease.

Early-stage gum disease (gingivitis)

It can be hard to tell that you have become affected by gum disease because it develops progressively. When plaque remains on the teeth for an extended period of time, the acid-producing bacteria living in it can cause the gums to become red and swollen. Bleeding gums are often one of the first signs of gum disease. The condition is fairly easily reversible with daily brushing and flossing, as well as a professional cleaning at the dentist’s office.

If gingivitis is left untreated, however, it can progress into a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis. At this point, the toxins in the plaque/tartar buildup can start to affect the bone and ligaments that support the teeth, in addition to gum tissue, and will require more extensive forms of treatment.

Nonsurgical treatment

The first step in treating periodontitis is usually a nonsurgical procedure called scaling and root planing. First, a dentist or hygienist will remove plaque and tartar from the teeth by scraping it away. While, during a routine cleaning, the plaque is only removed up to the gum line, during a scaling procedure, it will be removed from below the gum line as well. Then, the tooth roots will be smoothed away (planed) to discourage bacteria from building up there again. This procedure may require a local anesthetic to prevent discomfort and may take more than one visit. Once completed, the gums should heal and reattach themselves to the healthy, clean surfaces of the teeth. A follow-up appointment will be needed to allow your dentist to evaluate your healing and determine whether or not further treatment is necessary.

Surgical treatments

If a scaling and root planing procedure is not sufficient to restore the gums to health, surgical methods may become necessary. These include the following treatments:

  • Pocket reduction procedure: If the gum tissue fails to fit snugly around the tooth, the gum tissue may have to be folded back to allow your dentist or periodontist to remove infectious bacteria and smooth areas of damaged bone.
  • Gum graft: If the roots have become exposed due to gum recession, gum tissue may be taken from another area of the body (usually the palate) or a donor and placed to cover them. This helps to reduce sensitivity and protects the roots from decay.
  • Regenerative procedures: If the bone has been destroyed by periodontal disease, bone tissue can be taken from another part of the body, or a synthetic form is placed. Tissue-stimulating proteins are also placed to help the body regrow bone and tissue.

Anyone who has had treatment for any form of gum disease will have to be more conscientious about their oral care to prevent the disease from developing again. This will require more diligent brushing and flossing, as well as perhaps a prescription-strength antimicrobial mouthwash to help reduce bacteria in the mouth. Regular visits to the dentist will continue to be important to allow your dentist to keep an eye on the health of the gums and to give the teeth and gums a thorough cleaning.



DMD (Doctor of Medicine in Dentistry)

Dr. Thaer Al Azzawi graduated from MSA University in 2010 and practiced dentistry overseas for several years before immigrating to the United States. He then graduated from Rutgers School of Dental Medicine with Awards for Excellence in 2015 with awards for excellence. His professional affiliations include the ADA, TDA and GHDS.

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