How is ​gum disease treated?

In the early stages of gum disease (gingivitis to moderate periodontitis), dentists treat it by cleaning and scraping off tartar from above and below the gum line (scaling). But with advanced periodontitis, the damage is irreversible.

Periodontists (gum specialists) use specialised instruments to remove tartar deep within the gum pockets. Treatment is aimed at controlling the disease process and preventing further deterioration. In certain cases, procedures are performed to correct the effects of the disease. Local anaesthesia is usually given during gum treatment.

“The best protection against gum disease is to maintain good oral habits and to visit a dentist regularly, as gum disease is a silent disease that may progress without one’s knowledge.” said Dr Lee Wan Zhen, Associate Consultant, Periodontic Unit, Department of Restorative Dentistry, National Dental Centre Singapore​ (NDCS), a member of the SingHealth group​.​

If the dentist suspects periodontitis, an x-ray is done to assess the supporting bone around the teeth. If it is severe, following scaling and root planing, gum surgery may be indicated to save the teeth. “In the early stages we still have the means to prolong the lifespan of a tooth,” said Dr Lee. Periodontists can perform gum surgeries that help the gums heal or even regenerate lost tissues.

“But with end-stage gum disease, we can’t do anything. Teeth, even healthy teeth, become loose and have to be removed,” said Dr Lee. Using the analogy of a house, she explained: “If your house is built on a shaky foundation, it’s going to collapse. The gums are the foundation of a tooth.

“This is why if anyone suspects they have gum disease, even if there is no pain, they should seek treatment early.”

Stages Of periodontitis

1. Healthy Gums

Gums are pink and firm.

2. Gingivitis

Gums are fiery red and swollen, with plaque accumulation along the gum line. Tartar (hardened plaque) requires professional cleaning (scaling) to remove. Gums can return to their healthy levels after treatment.

3. Moderate Periodontitis

Most symptoms are similar to those of gingivitis but some bone loss has already occurred. Gum treatment (scaling and root planing) is necessary to control the disease.

4. Advanced Periodontitis

Significant bone loss has occurred. Gum recession is more obvious and teeth may drift. After treatment, gums will not return to their previous levels.

Ref: Q15