Can You Reverse Gum Disease? Definition, Treatment and Medical Insights
If you’re suffering from gum disease, you’re not alone. According to the Gum Disease Information Bureau, gum disease affects three out of four adults aged 35 and older in the UK. Over half of the teenager population also has some form of gum disease.
In addition, smoking accounts for over 50% of gum disease cases in the UK.
Swollen gums, bleeding gums, and bad breath are all symptoms of gum disease that you might be experiencing. If left untreated for a long time, it could potentially lead to gum abscesses and tooth loss.
Luckily, gum disease is reversible in the early stages. A periodontist specializes in diagnosing, preventing, and treating periodontal disease.
With proper oral care such as daily brushing, flossing, and professional dental care, you can start to have healthy gums again.
Here’s what you need to know about gum disease, the symptoms and the treatments so that you can maintain good oral health.
Table of Contents
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease can be described as an infection that damages the soft tissue in your gums.
It can also destroy the bone that supports your teeth. There are two types of gum diseases which are gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis occurs when your gums are inflamed and infected due to a buildup of plaque and tartar on your teeth. This is where bacteria loves to feed on your teeth and gums. Some signs of gingivitis include red and swollen gums, bleeding when you floss or brush or bad breath.
This is the first step in the development of serious gum disease. Most people won’t know that they have gum disease, which is why routine oral checkups with your dentists are necessary. If it’s untreated, it can lead to a more serious disease: periodontitis.
Periodontitis or advanced periodontal disease is the degeneration and inflammation of the soft tissue in your gums.
As the stages of gum disease progress, bacteria continue to feed on the plaque and tartar buildup, and the bacteria grows exponentially. What starts as gingivitis can turn into periodontitis.
As a result, further damage is caused to your gums and teeth. Gum recession happens gradually and occurs when the gum line pulls back, which exposes the tooth’s root. Your teeth can also fall out since your gums can no longer anchor them.
There are a few types of gum disease, but the most common types described in dentistry are chronic, aggressive, and necrotizing periodontitis. Chronic periodontitis is when the gum line is inflamed and leads to the destruction of the gum tissue and bone.
Aggressive periodontitis occurs when there is a rapid loss of gum attachment and bone. Finally, necrotizing periodontal disease is an infection caused by the death of gum tissue around the tooth and the alveolar bone (the bone holding the teeth in place on the jawbone).
Unfortunately, once you have advanced periodontitis, it is not reversible. The disease can only be reversed in its early stages through good dental hygiene and regular cleanings at the dentist.
Who is Likely to Develop Periodontal Disease and What Symptoms to Watch Out For
Many risk factors can elevate your risk of developing periodontal disease. If you have these risk factors, you will need to monitor your oral habits and have regular dental checkups.
Let’s dive into the causes and symptoms of periodontal disease.
Plaque buildup is the most common cause of gum disease. However, there are many other causes that you may not know about.
Other causes of gum disease include, smoking and chewing tobacco, poor nutrition, hormonal changes for women, prescription medications, crooked teeth, chronic diseases, impacted wisdom teeth, and family history.
Although some causes aren’t preventable, such as having a family history of gum disease, some causes such as smoking and plaque buildup can be prevented.
Symptoms of Gum Disease
The symptoms of gum disease can vary depending on its severity. Since gingivitis doesn’t cause pain, it typically goes unnoticed.
However, you can still experience these gingivitis symptoms including bleeding gums, sore gums, red and puffy gums, bad breath, loose teeth, and tooth sensitivity or pain.
Serious symptoms can occur for periodontitis such as receding gums, teeth that are surrounded by pus, a change in your bite, loose teeth, tooth loss, and painful chewing.
How Serious Can It Get?
Ignoring the signs and risk factors of gum disease can be very detrimental to your overall health. Many complications can result from untreated periodontal disease.
In its early stages, you might only experience minor effects from the tartar buildup, such as bleeding gums and bad breath
However, this can quickly develop into severe consequences for your oral health may include receding gum tissue, tooth loss or loose teeth, bone loss, and jaw deterioration.
The dangers of periodontal disease go beyond your oral health as it can potentially lead to severe health conditions.
Here are additional complications and health problems viewed to be linked to periodontal disease:
- Heart attack and cardiovascular death – periodontal disease can increase your chances of suffering from coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart attack. Studies have found that people with this disease are more likely to have poor heart health.
- Dementia – periodontal disease is associated with memory problems, which increases the risk of dementia.
- Pregnancy – some studies found that pregnant women with periodontal disease are more likely to deliver their baby before term.
Without the proper dental care and treatment, gum disease can become even more severe.
Treatment for Gum Disease
There are many treatments available, but the appropriate treatment depends on the stage of gum disease that you are in. Here are the possible options you can take below.
Preventative Measures You Can Take
It’s crucial to take preventative measures to reduce the likelihood of developing gum disease.
Many of these measures can be done at home, such as brushing your teeth daily, keeping your toothbrush germ-free, using a tongue scrape, and drinking antioxidant tea.
In addition, you should have regular dental check-ups and cleaning appointments.
During professional dental cleanings, your dentists will remove the tartar and plaque buildup in your gums. Those with gum disease are advised to have a professional dental cleaning more than twice a year.
Non-surgical treatments are designed to control bacterial growth and treat less severe gum disease, such as gingivitis. These options include professional dental cleaning, scaling, and root planning.
Scaling and root planing are deep cleaning procedures performed under a local anaesthetic where the tartar and plaque buildup from below and above the gum line are scraped away.
In addition, rough spots located on the tooth root will be made smooth. This entails removing bacteria and providing a clean surface for your gums to reattach to the teeth.
Your periodontist or dentist will advise for a scaling and root planing treatment if they determine that the calculus and plaque under the gums need to be eliminated.
Your dentist may prescribe oral prescriptions to treat your gingivitis. These antibiotics can also be combined with surgery to reduce or eliminate the bacteria in your mouth.
The most common medications are chlorhexidine, doxycycline, and minocycline. Chlorhexidine is a drug that decreases the number of bacteria in your mouth.
Doxycycline also reduces bacteria and comes in a gel form that is squeezed into the gum pockets. This improves tooth-gum attachment and reduces the size of the pocket.
Lastly, minocycline is usually a powder that is used to reduce the depth of the gum pocket.
When non-surgical treatments of periodontal disease have failed to reduce the depth of the periodontal pocket and control a bacterial infection, your dentist may recommend flap surgery or pocket depth reduction.
During this surgical procedure, the gum tissue is pulled away from the teeth allowing the dentist to clear the bone surfaces and tooth-root inside the periodontal pocket from bacteria, tartar, and infected tissue.
This surgery aims to reduce the pocket depth, which is needed to eliminate the bacteria.
Gum and Bone Grafts
Gum and bone grafts are typically performed when the periodontal disease has already severely damaged the gum tissue and destroyed the bone holding the teeth, and all other preventative measures and prior treatments have failed to treat the disease.
These measures and treatment include practising good oral hygiene care suggested by your dental hygienist, such as flossing, dental check-ups, using a clean toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste and mouthwash, and professional cleaning.
In addition, non-surgical treatment has failed to remove the deep pockets and treat the gum disease, including dentures and root planing. While, flap surgery is designed to treat the bacteria and perform a deep cleaning on your gums and tooth-root, grafting is designed to restore the bone and tissue damage you’ve received from gum disease.
Gum or soft tissue grafts are a procedure where the dentist will fill in spots where the gums have receded. The grafted tissue is usually removed from the roof of the mouth and stitched to the affected area.
Bone grafts use a synthetic bone, donated bone, or fragments of your bone to replace the destroyed bone that occurred from gum disease. This process aims to restore the stability of your teeth.
Once the healing process is over, it’s important to clean these areas through the use of dental floss. Maintaining healthy gum tissue and bone will promote good oral health and help your immune system since there aren’t any harmful bacteria in your gums.
The best way to avoid these symptoms and treatments is to take preventative measures against gum disease, including through good oral hygiene practices.
However, if you’ve noticed some early signs of gum disease, you can still reverse the effects.
If things have already gotten bad, all is not lost. At Bespoke Smile, we are dedicated to improving the cosmetics and health of your gums and teeth.
Our resident periodontist can help improve your oral health and smile confidence through a range of procedures to reduce infection, remove unwanted gum tissue and ensure we help you reach your Bespoke Smile.
That’s why we offer cosmetic procedures like gum lifts to replace lost gums and remove unwanted gum tissue to create a beautiful smile.