Periodontal Conditions: Care Instructions

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Teeth with swollen gingiva

Your Care Instructions

Periodontal conditions affect the gums, bone, and tissue that surround and support the teeth. The most common problems are caused by plaque. Plaque is a thin film of bacteria that sticks to teeth above and below the gum line. It can build up and harden into tartar. The bacteria in plaque and tartar can cause gum disease.

Gingivitis is a disease that affects the gums (gingiva). The gums are the soft tissue that surrounds the teeth. Gingivitis causes red, swollen, tender gums that bleed easily when brushed, persistent bad breath, and sensitive teeth. Because it is not painful, many people do not get treatment when they should. Gingivitis can be reversed with good dental care.

Periodontitis is a more advanced disease that affects more than the gums. The gums pull away from the teeth. This leaves deep pockets where bacteria can grow. The disease can damage the bones that support the teeth. The teeth may get loose and fall out.

A periodontal condition should be treated as soon as it is found. Finding gum problems early, treating them right away, and having regular checkups bring the best results.

You can treat mild periodontal conditions by brushing and flossing your teeth every day. Your dentist may prescribe a mouthwash to kill the bacteria that can damage teeth and gums.

Your dentist may have you take antibiotics to treat infection from moderate periodontal disease.

If your gums have pulled away from your teeth, you may need cleaning between the teeth and gums right down to the teeth roots. This is called root planing and scaling. If you have severe periodontal disease, you may need surgery to remove diseased gum tissue or repair bone damage.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your dentist if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • If your dentist prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed. Do not stop taking them just because you feel better. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • Brush your teeth twice a day, in the morning and at night.
    • Use a toothbrush with soft, rounded-end bristles and a head that is small enough to reach all parts of your teeth and mouth. Replace your toothbrush every 3 to 4 months.
    • Use a fluoride toothpaste.
    • Place the brush at a 45-degree angle where the teeth meet the gums. Press firmly, and gently rock the brush back and forth using small circular movements.
    • Brush chewing surfaces vigorously with short back-and-forth strokes.
    • Brush your tongue from back to front.
  • Floss at least once a day. Choose the type and flavour that you like best.
  • Have your teeth cleaned by a professional. Your dentist will recommend how often to have routine checkups. Many people should see their dentists once or twice a year.
  • Ask your dentist about using an antibacterial mouthwash to help reduce bacteria.
  • Rinse your mouth with water or chew sugar-free gum after meals if you can't brush your teeth.
  • Do not smoke or use smokeless tobacco. Tobacco use can cause periodontal disease.

When should you call for help?

Call your dentist now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your dentist if:

  • You have new or worsening tooth pain.
  • You do not get better as expected.

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