It's no secret that a gum infection is something you never want to deal with. Although there are ways to reduce your risk for gum infection – sticking with an oral care routine and seeing your dentist, among them – it can still happen. Fortunately, gum infection treatment is available, whether you're dealing with early gum disease or a more advanced infection, such as periodontal disease, an abscess or pericoronitis.
About half of adults over the age of 30 have some form of gum disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This can include gingivitis, the most mild form, or an advanced case of periodontitis. Gum disease is only fully reversible in the earliest stages, but treatment is available for any level of severity; the type of care that's right for a patient depends on how advanced the infection is. Typically, a dentist will start with the least-invasive form of treatment and only use a more involved process if needed.
A deep cleaning of the teeth through scaling and root planing is often the first type of treatment considered. The dentist or dental hygienist scales the teeth and removes tartar from them, above and below the gumline. During this procedure, if there is gum recession the root surface is also scaled, which is referred to as root planing. Plaque bacteria and food debris are less able to cling to smoothed root surfaces. Although deep cleaning might be enough to clear the infection for some patients, others may need a course of antibiotics to completely eliminate the bacteria causing the infection.
Surgery might be needed in some cases, particularly if the gum disease has caused your gums to start pulling away (receding) from your teeth and you have periodontal pocketing which leads to bone loss. Surgical treatments can reduce the size of pockets that form between the teeth and gum, so that bacteria don't have a place to hide. A periodontist may perform gum graft surgery if you have receding gums, to cover up the exposed root surfaces, improve the look of your smile and help to reduce your risk for further problems.
Clearing a Periodontal Abscess
In certain instances, periodontal disease can lead to a type of dental abscess known as a periodontal abscess. Whereas some abscesses occur in the tooth, a periodontal abscess develops in the gums; often it appears as a red, swollen lesion on the gum line. If you suddenly feel a sharp pain in your gums, it's best to see a dentist quickly, as the sooner an abscess is treated, the better. Gum infection treatment in this situation usually involves draining the abscess and deep cleaning the area. Antibiotics can also help make sure the infection is fully cleared.
A lesion can also develop on the gums when a person has a tooth abscess. Tooth decay, not gum disease, is behind a tooth abscess. Quick treatment is still needed, usually in the form of antibiotics, to reduce the pain and save the tooth.
Some types of gum infection can develop when a tooth (usually a wisdom tooth) tries to erupt but becomes stuck or impacted. A small flap forms over the trapped tooth. If food becomes lodged in this gum flap, bacteria can soon follow, leading to an infection called pericoronitis.
Treatment options for pericoronitis range from rinsing out the gums with salt water to removing any trapped food or debris. A course of antibiotics can help kill any lingering bacteria, and regular brushing and flossing will keep the infection from recurring. Removing the impacted wisdom teeth prevents the infection from happening again and keeps other wisdom teeth-related issues from following.
A clean mouth is less likely to be affected by infection. Brushing your teeth twice a day, using a toothpaste designed to fight germs – such as Colgate Total® Advanced Deep Clean – and flossing daily will help you avoid gum disease and infection. Regular visits to your dentist are a must as well, to catch and treat small issues before they become big ones.