The best way to treat gum disease is to practise good oral hygiene, although additional dental and medical treatments are sometimes necessary.
Good oral hygiene involves:
- brushing your teeth for two to three minutes twice a day (in the morning and at night), preferably with an electric toothbrush
- using toothpaste that contains fluoride (fluoride is a natural mineral that helps protect against tooth decay)
- flossing your teeth regularly (preferably daily)
- not smoking
- regularly visiting your dentist (at least once every one to two years, but more frequently if necessary)
See the teeth cleaning guide for more information and advice about good oral hygiene.
Antiseptic mouthwashes that contain chlorhexidine or hexetidine are available over the counter from pharmacies, although there is some debate about whether using mouthwash is necessary for people with healthy gums.
Your dentist may recommend using mouthwash if it helps control the build-up of plaque (the sticky substance that forms when bacteria collects on the surface of your teeth). Your dentist will be able to advise you about which type of mouthwash is most suitable and how to use it.
Chlorhexidine mouthwash can stain your teeth brown if you use it regularly. Rinse your mouth thoroughly between brushing your teeth and using a chlorhexidine mouthwash because some ingredients in toothpaste can prevent the mouthwash working.
Some of the dental treatments described below may also be recommended if you have gum disease.
Scale and polish: To remove plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) that can build up on your teeth, your dentist may suggest that you have your teeth scaled and polished. This is a ‘professional clean’ usually carried out at your dental surgery by a dental hygienist.
The dental hygienist will scrape away plaque and tartar from your teeth using special instruments, then polish your teeth to remove marks or stains. If a lot of plaque or tartar has built up, you may need to have more than one scale and polish.
Root planing: In some cases of gum disease, root planing (debridement) may be required. This is a deep clean under the gums that gets rid of bacteria from the roots of your teeth.
Before having the treatment, you may need to have a local anaesthetic (painkilling medication) to numb the area. You may experience some pain and discomfort for up to 48 hours after having root planing.
Further treatment: If you have severe gum disease, you may need further treatment, such as periodontal surgery. In some cases, it is necessary to remove the affected tooth. Your dentist will be able to tell you about the procedure needed and how it is carried out. If necessary, they can refer you to a specialist.
If you are having surgery or root planing, you may be given antibiotics (medication to treat infections). Your dentist will tell you whether this is necessary.