The gingivitis treatment options your dentist may recommend for gum inflammation vary depending on a number of factors:
- The length of time you’ve had gingivitis and how far it has progressed
- Whether there are underlying medical issues that are making the problem worse
- If you have lifestyle habits that are contributing to the condition
- Your tolerance for various approaches to treatment
Your dentist will do a visual examination of your gums to check for swelling, redness and bleeding. The amount of plaque and tartar (dental calculus) built up along the gum line will also be checked. As gum inflammation leads to gum infection, gaps form between the gum and the tooth root. These gaps are filled with bacteria laden tartar. The depth of these “pockets” is measured to determine the severity of gingivitis. Anything beyond three mms deep is considered periodontitis rather than gingivitis. Gingivitis that has progressed to periodontal disease often requires more extensive treatment up to and including surgery. Fortunately, it is often possible to reverse gingivitis with less invasive procedures if you catch it early enough.
Early Gingivitis Treatment
The first line of treatment for early signs of gingivitis is a thorough tooth cleaning. The dental hygienist uses various tools to scrape tartar and plaque off your teeth. Some dentists use an ultrasound-assisted device to help vibrate the tartar free from the tooth surface. Removal of tartar along the gums can be uncomfortable, but it is necessary for treating gingivitis. Most patients don’t require any numbing agent during this treatment as long as there is little tartar buildup below the gum line. Since gingivitis irritates and inflames your gums, you may experience more bleeding than normal during a routine cleaning. However, as your gum inflammation clears, you will have less bleeding during daily flossing and brushing. Patients with gingivitis may need a professional tooth cleaning more frequently than the usual twice per year schedule.
Scaling is another gingivitis treatment your dentist may recommend when a substantial amount of tartar has built up beneath the gum line. The plaque and tartar may be manually scraped out from beneath the gums. This procedure is more painful than a regular cleaning. It may be done in two visits. The first visit is for “rough” scaling to remove the bulk of the tartar. The second visit is for “fine” scaling to finish up removing tartar from below the gum line and to clean and polish the teeth. A local anesthetic may be administered to lessen discomfort during this procedure. Minor scaling is often done as part of a standard dental cleaning if there are just a few spots that need to be addressed. In these cases, an anesthetic is generally not required.
Gingivitis may be treated with root planing to help prevent recurrence. During this procedure, the dentist smoothes the tooth surface below the gum line. Creating a smooth, crevice free surface helps keep bacteria and plaque from gaining a foothold. Keeping bacteria out gives your gums a chance to heal and adhere to the tooth root again. This gingivitis treatment actually removes a thin layer of the dentin on the surface of the tooth. Your teeth may be sensitive for a while after this procedure, but that side effect should resolve over time. Since this treatment can be intense, you may have it done in four sessions – one for each quadrant of your mouth. If there is evidence of bacterial infection below the gum line, you may be prescribed an antibiotic to promote healing after scaling and planing.
Your dentist may recommend a specific mouthwash to help keep gingivitis symptoms to a minimum. This might be a prescription mouthwash containing Chlorhexidine gluconate or an over-the-counter product such as Listerine. These germicidal washes kill oral bacteria. They aren’t a substitute for brushing your teeth at least twice per day as recommended by your dentist. Some mouthwashes may cause tooth staining. Talk with your dentist about what whitening agents you can use to remove these stains without irritating your gums.