Non-Surgical Gum Disease Treatment
A variety of treatments are available for gum disease, depending on the extent of the problem, your overall health and how you may have responded to previous therapy.
The most common approach to treat gum disease (periodontitis) is a non-surgical treatment to control bacterial growth and prevent the condition worsening to the stage where invasive intervention is necessary to repair damaged soft tissue and bone.
Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults and occurs when a build-up of bacterial plaque creates an infection that eats away at your gums.
The importance of early non-surgical gum disease treatment is underscored by the American Academy of Periodontology1 (AAP), which emphasizes that periodontal treatment should be carried out in the least invasive way possible.
Non-surgical gum disease treatments include medications and deep cleaning (scaling and root planing) to fight infection.
Medications in Non-Surgical Gum Disease Treatment
Antibiotics can be administered as part of non-surgical gum disease treatment to combat the development of bacteria and destruction of tissue that supports your teeth.
Chlorhexidine is often prescribed by dentists to control inflammation and accumulations of plaque caused by gingivitis – the initial stage of periodontal disease. Chlorhexidine comes in the form of an antiseptic mouthwash or gelatin-filled chip, under the brand names:
These products can taste unpleasant but your dentist will stress the importance of not rinsing your mouth after use – you could dilute the effectiveness of the medication.
Other antibiotics your dentist may use to treat gum disease include:
Antibiotics can be prescribed as a stand-alone therapy for gum disease or alongside non-surgical or surgical treatment.
Your dentist may also recommend an over-the-counter toothpaste containing fluoride and the antibiotic triclosan.
Is Triclosan Safe?
In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration2 effectively banned triclosan from soaps amid fears that exposure to antibacterial substances in everyday products could result in new strains of resistant bacteria and affect hormonal development in children.
But triclosan can still be found in toothpaste after the Colgate-Palmolive company convinced the FDA that the benefits of the chemical in reducing plaque and gingivitis outweighed any risks.
Colgate-Palmolive3 is the U.S.-based global outfit whose core businesses includes oral care. They’re the people behind Colgate Total, a toothpaste that contains triclosan. The company says Colgate Total undergoes far more rigorous safety reviews than other toothpastes.
Tray Delivery Medications for Gum Disease
Medications for gum disease may also be administered through a tray delivery system, with the trays being customized from impressions of the patient’s mouth.
Like triclosan toothpaste, these tray delivery systems have been cleared by the Food and Drug Administration. However, the American Academy of Periodontology says there is no compelling evidence that tray delivery is more effective than non-surgical gum disease treatment on its own.
Tip: If you have any concerns about triclosan or tray delivery medication systems, a dentist with experience in non-surgical gum disease therapies4 will be able to advise you on the pros and cons of all your treatment options.
Scaling and Root Planing in Non-Surgical Gum Disease Treatment
Scaling is typically carried out over several appointments although treatment in a single visit may be possible with sedation dentistry5.
The scaling process goes deeper than a routine dental cleaning. While regular cleaning addresses the surface of the teeth, scaling goes beyond the gum line to eliminate accumulations of bacterial plaque and tartar.
Once tartar – calcified plaque - has developed, it can only be removed by a dental professional.
Scaling is followed by root planing to smooth the surfaces of tooth roots so gum tissue can re-connect to them effectively. The process gets rid of bacteria and tartar and removes areas of a tooth that have been invaded by toxins.
Planing – or smoothing – the root of a tooth encourages healing, and clean, even root surfaces help to ward off future bacterial attacks.
If you respond well to scaling and root planing, you may not require further treatment, although a program of periodontal maintenance is usually necessary.
Periodontal maintenance includes routine cleanings and thorough examination of gum tissue. Your dentist will also measure the depth of periodontal pockets – gaps between teeth and gums – and be alert to any signs of gum recession.
After-effects of scaling and root planing are generally negligible although your mouth may be sore for a few days. In the unlikely event you experience bleeding or swelling a mouthwash and desensitizing toothpaste can ease discomfort.
Mouth Disinfection and Fixing Tooth Repair Problems
In addition to antibiotic medication and scaling and root planing, other non-surgical gum disease treatments may include:
- A full mouth disinfection (FMD) by flushing the gums with an antibacterial mouthwash.
- Fixing any issue with ill-fitting dental implants or fillings that may be making oral hygiene difficult.
Importance of Good Oral Hygiene to Support Gum Disease Treatment
Studies suggest an 85 percent success rate in gum disease treatment when backed by a strong routine of oral healthcare at home.
Steps you can take to reinforce the effectiveness of professional non-surgical gum disease treatment include:
- Brushing your teeth after each snack or meal, or at least twice a day, with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Using a soft-bristled brush and replacing it every few months.
- Flossing daily to clean between your teeth.
- Using a mouthwash recommended by your dentist.
- Getting regular professional dental cleanings.
- Avoiding tobacco products.
If you use a manual toothbrush, you may want to consider switching to an electric brush, which can be more effective in removing food debris and plaque.
Signs to Watch Out for After Treatment
Non-surgical treatment is typically an effective remedy in cases of mild to moderate periodontal disease, but there’s always a risk of recurrence of the problem, so you need to be vigilant in watching for indications that may indicate the condition is returning.
These warning signs include:
- Persistent bad breath (halitosis)
- Bleeding and/or swollen gums.
- Receding gums.
- A change in your bite.
- Mouth sores.
- Pus around your teeth and gums.
- Loose teeth.