Can I treat periodontal disease or gum recession at home?
If you’ve been diagnosed with gum recession (receding gums), periodontal (perio) disease, Gingivitis, swollen or infected gums, it is scary. The cures for this sound daunting. Scaling and Root Planing, Osseous surgery, gum grafting, or more frequent dental visits is usually the answer from your dentist. But why can’t we treat it at home? What about oil pulling? What about mouthwash? What about the organic home periodontal products like special toothpaste or oil rinses? It seems like these products could really work, and they have testimonials. I’d prefer to try treating it myself.
I spoke with Dr. Gregory Farber, a periodontal surgeon, at Buffalo Dental Implant.
Question: Dr Farber, Is it true that dentists don’t suggest treating perio disease at home because they just want to make more money. What about the products I see in my Facebook feed? If periodontal disease is bacteria based, why can’t i just kill the bacteria myself? Do at home perio treatments work?
Answer: (Laughing out loud) Firstly, if a do-it-at-home product worked, we would support it. We’re not just grabbing money. Brushing your teeth at home works and we very much support that.
Secondly, not all perio conditions are bacteria based. Which goes against the basis of what they are selling. Mouth wash also kills bacteria, but the effect is short lived. Same as the oils and rinses they are trying to sell as a cure. Gum recession can be caused by issues with your bone, facial muscles or even a gum injury.
Thirdly, once you’ve been diagnosed with a perio issue, it’s beyond just bacteria.
Everyone has bacteria in their mouth every day. Some more than others. It sounds cliche now-a-days, but brushing twice a day, flossing daily and dental visits greatly reduces the amount of bacteria and the tartar/plaque build up.
The problem comes when you either don’t maintain well enough or if you are genetically predisposed to not being able to handle the bacteria that your mouth produces. The tartar that builds up around your gums starts to build under the gums. Once this happens, you can not get it out yourself. Let’s say I super glued my keys inside my pants pocket. Once I’ve done this, could you take a hose and squirt the keys out of my pocket? (like water picks)? No.
Could you get them out by rubbing the pocket with a rope (like flossing)? No. Could you swipe a broom back and forth across my pocket and get them out (toothbrush)? No.
Once tartar/plaque has formed UNDER your gums, it can not be removed except by a perio cleaning with specific tools. You can soak it with oil but you can’t just “kill the bacteria” because plaque is not just bacteria. It’s a by-product of bacteria and food particles that has turned into a super hard mineral complex that is “super glued” to your tooth below the gum line. The at home products that “kill bacteria” are similar to a mouthwash that “kills bacteria”. It may, but it’s short lived. It doesn’t “kill” plaque.
Question: What happens if I just leave it? I am afraid of scaling and root planing. It sounds painful.
Answer: The plaque under your gums is a breeding ground for more bacteria so the issues just compound. The bacteria starts causing damage in your jaw bone, creating deterioration of the bone. This deterioration leads to tooth loss and several overall health problems. The bacteria also eats away at your gums which can make surrounding teeth start to get loose, too. Scaling and Root Planing isn’t always painful. A periodontal office (like Buffalo Dental Implant) has the skills, tools and training to make it as easy as possible. Once Scaling and Root Planing is done, and if it’s maintained at your dentist’s office, it can actually be avoided again for years or sometimes a lifetime.
Question: Could I get the bacteria out before it forms plaque?
Answer: Well, yes. That’s what brushing, flossing and dental visits do. But once your gums have been compromised, the plaque has to be removed by a perio hygienist to save your teeth over the long run. People who avoid cleanings for the first few decades of their lives are people who have to see us for dentures in the latter parts of their lives. It won’t go away on its own. Oils and toothpastes and rinses will not get tartar out. It will not regrow gums.
Getting rid of the bacteria is always temporary. We could put you on antibiotics and get rid of the bacteria, but as soon as you’re off the medication, the bacteria comes back. Bacteria in your mouth is a daily constant. Not letting it form into plaque is the goal.
Again, once tartar/plaque does start below the gum line, the build-up breaks the connective tissues (gingival fibers) that run from your gums to your teeth. You develop “pockets”. Pockets allow even more bacteria to settle on the roots of your teeth (which are not protected by enamel). The results are sensitivity, bleeding gums, pain, and cavities below the gum line. Receding gums, loose teeth and/or bleeding when you brush are the visible signs of this disease.
Untreated, periodontal disease results in tooth loss and decay of your jaw bone.
Question: So what is the best next step to start treating periodontal disease?
Answer: Visits to a Periodontal Specialist are the solution if you have periodontal disease.
Please know, there is no true cure for periodontal disease. Once you have it, you need to continue maintenance. A periodontal specialist can ensure that this maintenance is as easy as possible.
Thank you Dr. Farber!
What is Scaling and Root Planing? Deep Cleaning is the first step to treatment for periodontal disease. Also known as SRP, this process normally includes two special visits where you are numbed and the hygienist cleans below the gum lines in your mouth. One half of your mouth (left side or right side) is cleaned at each visit. This deep cleaning removes build up of plaque and bacteria below the gum line which can not be cleaned at home. It creates a clean environment that allows your gums to reconnect to your teeth and protects your bone, too.
With proper maintenance cleanings, SRPs typically only need to be performed every 2-3 years. Sometimes you may never need it again.
Buffalo Dental Implant’s periodontal hygiene team does many SRPs each day. We have the education, tools, and the experience to make this as easy as is possible.
Periodontal Cleanings are for maintenance after your SRP. These advanced cleanings help prevent your pockets from growing and keep your mouth healthy.