5 Things You Should Know About Recovering from Gum Disease
Gum Disease 101: Know the Facts
Even when we’re thinking about our oral health, it’s fairly common to forget to consider our gums. Our teeth are so often the stars of the show, but our gums have a role to play that’s just as vital for our oral and overall health. Your gums support your teeth and protect your tooth roots from decay by creating a seal that keeps bacteria out. This seal even prevents oral bacteria from making it into your bloodstream, helping keep your overall health on track too! Gum health is so important that you can’t have healthy teeth if your gums are unhealthy, so taking steps to maintain your gum health so that gum disease can’t take root should be a vital part of your daily routine.
If you’re suffering from gum disease or beginning the recovery process, learning about periodontal disease can be an important step in your recovery. Plus, when you understand the condition better, it’s easier to prevent it in the future. You don’t have to learn all of this alone, though; that’s where we come in! We’ve created a guide to help you understand periodontal disease, what the recovery process involves, and how you can prevent it in the future.
What is periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease occurs when bacteria attack your gums, causing irritation and infection. There are two forms of gum disease: gingivitis and periodontitis. But what are these two conditions? Well, gingivitis is the least severe type of gum disease that occurs when oral bacteria builds up as plaque around the gumline, irritating your gums.
When gingivitis isn’t treated soon enough, it can develop into a more advanced type of gum disease called periodontitis. During this stage of periodontal disease, bacteria irritate and infect your gums to the point that they begin to pull away from your teeth. This breaks the seal that allows your gums to protect your tooth roots, letting bacteria move underneath your gumline to begin attacking your tooth roots and other supporting structures of your teeth. If periodontitis goes untreated, it can cause permanent damage to your gums and teeth, including eventual tooth loss. Thankfully, gum disease is relatively easy to treat, and even easier to prevent, if you catch it early!
How to Recognize Different Stages of Gum Disease
Recognizing the signs of periodontal disease at home is essential to getting treatment faster, so you might find yourself wondering, “What does gingivitis look like?” The signs of gum disease, especially gingivitis, are easy to miss at home because they’re often painless, but it is possible to spot them if you know what to look for. Gums that bleed easily, such as when you floss, is the biggest indication of gingivitis. Other signs include gums that are red or swollen and a bad taste in your mouth or bad breath that don’t go away even after you’ve brushed your teeth. As periodontal disease worsens into periodontitis, these symptoms worsen. Even simply brushing your teeth may now cause your gums to bleed, and they may bleed more or longer than before. New symptoms will also appear, including:
- Tender gums
- Tooth sensitivity
- Painful chewing
- Gum recession
- Formation of deep pockets between your teeth and gums
- Changes in the way your bite fits together
- Loose teeth
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should call your dentist right away to schedule an appointment. Gum disease is easiest to treat and has fewer long-term effects when it’s caught early, so it’s always better to be safe than sorry!
How to Treat Gingivitis and How Long It Takes
Once you know what it is, the next biggest question is often how to get rid of gingivitis. Since it’s the earliest stage of gum disease, curing gingivitis is often much easier than periodontitis. Most cases of gingivitis can be treated simply by committing to a great oral hygiene routine. This routine should include brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and using mouthwash daily. Flossing is particularly important because it cleans bacteria from between your teeth and around the gumline, where your toothbrush can’t reach. You can also use a special antibacterial mouthwash or a saltwater rinse to help kill oral bacteria. After a week or two, your symptoms should go away.
If you notice mild symptoms like swollen or lightly bleeding gums when you floss, there’s no harm in learning how to reverse them naturally at home, but always be mindful of your symptoms! If your symptoms are severe or if they continue after two weeks of implementing these at-home methods, you may have more advanced periodontal disease. Advanced stages need to be treated by your dentist before they become more severe, so you should always schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.
How to Recover from Periodontitis and How Long It Takes
Periodontitis is a more advanced form of gum disease, so treating it is a bit more complicated and needs to be done by your dentist. The good news is there are several very effective ways to treat periodontitis, including both nonsurgical and surgical methods, but which one you need will depend on how severe your case is. If your case isn’t too severe, your dentist may suggest scaling and root planing, which uses special tools to clean and smooth down your tooth roots beneath your gumline. Smoothing your tooth roots helps prevent future periodontitis by making it harder for bacteria to adhere to them in the future.
For more severe cases of periodontitis, however, you may need surgical treatments like pocket reduction surgery, which allows your dentist to remove bacteria from your tooth roots more directly and close any pockets that have formed between your teeth and gums. Whether you need a surgical or nonsurgical treatment, your dentist may also prescribe antibiotics or recommend an antibacterial mouthwash to help ensure the infection doesn’t return. How long the treatment and healing process takes depends on which treatment you receive and how severe your case is, but it will likely take at least a few weeks. Since periodontitis can do long-term damage to your gums, teeth, and jaw, the healing process for severe cases may take several months and may involve additional treatments like gum grafts. In the end, though, it’s worth it to have healthier teeth and gums!
What to Do So Gum Disease Doesn’t Come Back
While periodontal disease can have a big impact on your oral and overall health, it’s very easy to prevent! Sticking to a great oral hygiene routine only takes a few minutes out of your day, but it can make all the difference when it comes to preventing gum disease. If you want to give your routine a little extra punch when it comes to gum disease prevention, try using an antibacterial mouthwash that’s designed to help fight it.
Part of this regular care for your oral health also includes scheduling a visit with your dentist every six months. The professional dental cleaning you get during this visit helps prevent oral health issues like cavities and gum disease by removing hardened tartar, which you can’t get off your teeth at home, and allows your dentist to spot issues before they become a big deal. This is why dental checkups are a vital part of keeping your teeth and gums healthy in the long term! A healthy, balanced diet can also help foster great oral health, so try to watch what you eat. This doesn’t mean you have to cut out all of your favorite foods, but it does mean you should be smart about when and how much you eat them.
The last step is just as simple as the rest: don’t ignore symptoms of gum disease! If you notice signs like bleeding, discolored, or swollen gums, especially if they aren’t going away with a regular oral hygiene routine, you should call your dentist as soon as possible to schedule an appointment. Again, gum disease is easiest to treat when it’s caught early, so it’s always best to communicate these issues to your dentist so you can receive treatment quickly.
Take control of your oral health with the help of the Berrien Dental team.
Building simple habits around your oral hygiene doesn’t take much effort, but it can make a huge difference in the health of your gums and, as a result, your teeth and even your whole body! If you’d like to learn more about gum disease, if you’ve noticed some signs and symptoms in your mouth, or if it’s simply time to schedule your next checkup with us, feel free to schedule your appointment at any time.