Finding Answers About Gum Disease
If you’ve been told that you have gum disease, you probably have questions about the condition, but perhaps the biggest of these is, “Is gum disease reversible?” This is understandable—and it’s a good idea to learn more about your diagnosis. The more you know, the easier it will be for you to choose the best treatment option for you and to take steps to prevent yourself from developing this disease again. The answer to this question, however, is a little more complicated than a direct “yes” or “no,” as it depends heavily upon each case and how advanced your gum disease is.
As a whole, though, gum disease is very treatable—and, even better, it’s easy to prevent in the long run! We understand that finding these answers so soon after a diagnosis can be overwhelming, so we’ve put together a guide to help you learn more about whether this disease is reversible, how it’s treated, and what you can do to prevent it in the future.
What is gum disease?
Gum disease is a gum infection that occurs when bacteria attack your gums, often as a result of bacteria-filled plaque building up on your teeth along the gum line. There are two main stages of gum disease: the more minor form of gum disease is called gingivitis, while the more serious stage is called periodontitis.
As gum disease progresses to its more serious stages, the bacteria attacking your gums make it beneath the gum line, where they begin attacking the supporting structures of your teeth. If it isn’t treated, gum disease can lead to more than just simple irritation, causing long-lasting damage to your gums and jaw, including gum recession, the formation of deep pockets between your gums and teeth, bone loss in your jaw, and (eventually) tooth loss.
Thankfully, modern dentistry has several treatments available to resolve gum disease—and even better, the condition is generally easy to prevent.
Is it reversible? If so, when?
The effects of gum disease can be reversible when it’s caught early, when it’s still gingivitis. The symptoms of gingivitis are relatively mild, so it can be difficult to notice them at home. In fact, even periodontitis is easy to miss because it’s often painless. Despite this, if you know what you’re looking for, you can spot signs of gingivitis at home. Common symptoms include:
- Red, swollen, or inflamed gums.
- Persistent bad breath.
- Gums that bleed easily during flossing or brushing.
- Sore or tender gums.
- Gum recession.
Many of these symptoms are easy to miss or easily explained away, so it’s not uncommon for people to have gingivitis without realizing it. This is why going to regular appointments with your dentist is so vital. These appointments help spot issues like gum disease that you might not have noticed at home, and scheduling your appointments regularly helps ensure that your dentist spots these issues early—while the damage they’ve done is still reversible with simple lifestyle changes or minor treatments!
What are the treatment options for the early-stage of the disease?
Thankfully, early-stage gum disease is usually easy to treat. When you’re first diagnosed, you will likely receive a professional dental cleaning to ensure that built-up plaque and tartar are removed from your teeth and from around your gum line. This clears away the bacteria that is the source of infection and irritation in your gums.
After this, gingivitis can usually be treated by simply adopting a great oral hygiene routine. This includes brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and using mouthwash daily by following the instructions on the bottle. When you stick to this routine, your symptoms should vanish and your gums should heal, generally showing no long-term negative effects.
What are the treatment options for advanced stages of gum disease?
Since periodontitis is a more severe stage of gum disease that can do irreversible damage to your gums and jaw, treatment for it is more involved than it is for gingivitis. Potential treatments include antibiotics as well as both nonsurgical and surgical treatments, depending on the severity of your case.
Teeth scaling and root planing are nonsurgical periodontal treatments that are often used together. During this treatment, Dr. Lang uses specialized tools to clean beneath your gum line, eliminating bacteria there to halt the infection, and smooths the surface of tooth roots to make it harder for bacteria to grow there in the future.
In more severe cases of gum disease, surgical treatments are sometimes needed to clean beneath your gums more directly and to close deep pockets that may have opened up between your gums and teeth. These deep pockets often trap food and increase your risk for future infections and tooth decay, but they won’t close up themselves, even after your gums are healthy, so closing them up with pocket reduction surgery is often an important part of protecting your oral health in the long term.
When severe periodontitis goes untreated for a long time, it can cause extensive damage to your teeth and their supporting structures—sometimes to the point that your teeth are beyond saving. When this is the case, periodontitis treatment can also involve tooth extractions and tooth replacement options.
Thankfully, modern dentistry has amazing tooth replacement options, especially dental implants. Implants restore the appearance, function, and even the feeling of natural teeth, all while protecting your jaw from the bone loss that usually goes along with tooth loss. It’s always best to keep your natural teeth if possible, but implants are easily the next best thing, offering daily and long-term benefits to your confidence and oral health.
How can you prevent gum disease?
Despite the damage that untreated gum disease can do, there’s good news—it’s very easy to prevent! The key to prevention is simply sticking to a great oral hygiene routine.
Although it’s often overlooked, flossing is a particularly vital part of gum disease prevention because it breaks up plaque at your gum line, preventing bacteria from sitting there and attacking your gums.
Another vital aspect of gum disease prevention is making sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist every six months. General dentistry appointments give Dr. Lang the chance to spot signs of gum disease and other oral health issues that you may have missed at home. You’ll also get a thorough dental cleaning, including removing hardened tartar from your teeth.
Tartar is mineralized plaque that’s bonded to the surface of your teeth, so you can’t get it off at home—getting it off takes specialized tools used by your dentist. Because of this, your dental cleaning plays an active role in prevention in addition to serving as an early detection tool.
Even though gum disease can have a massive impact on your oral health, it’s easy to treat when it’s caught early and even easier to prevent. If you suspect you might have gum disease or would like to learn more about gum disease and your oral health, feel free to schedule an appointment with Dr. Lang at any time.