When it comes to dental health, most people think of the teeth. However, the gums are what help hold your teeth in place and aid in keeping your mouth healthy. Naturally, then, attention needs to be on them as well.
Gum infections are not only painful and discomforting, but they can also lead to more severe dental problems as well as overall health issues. Addressing them early on can help prevent advancing gum disease and keep your mouth healthy in the years ahead.
What Is a Gum Infection and What Causes Them?
A gum infection is essentially the beginnings of gum disease, also referred to as periodontal disease. The soft tissue surrounding teeth becomes inflamed or infected and can eventually lead to tooth loss if not addressed early enough.
Gum infection and disease result from plaque, that sticky bacterial film that forms constantly over your teeth. While brushing and flossing daily can help rid your teeth of this film, it can still pile up or remain in hard-to-reach places, such as near the gum line.
The mildest type of gum infection or disease is gingivitis. Good oral hygiene and regular dental cleanings can aid in reducing and removing it before it has a chance to advance.
The more advanced form of gum infection or disease is periodontitis. This type of advanced infection can severely damage the soft tissue surrounding your teeth. It is often found just below the gum line, in the crevices between tooth and gum. Delayed treatment can even result in bone loss which is what supports your teeth.
A gum infection is the result of bacteria accumulating in the tissues of the mouth. Potential causes of a gum infection include:
- poor dental hygiene
- pre-existing health conditions, such as diabetes
- hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy
- excessive stress
- dry mouth or light flow of saliva, often caused by medications
- ill-fitting dental devices such as bridges or dentures, even braces
Symptoms and warning signs of a gum infection vary based on the level of severity and may include:
- Your gums are swollen, bleeding, or tender
- Your gum tissue is pulling away, or receding, from teeth
- Persistent bad taste in mouth
- Chronic bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Change in your bite and how teeth fit together
- Change in fit of partial dentures
- Painful when chewing
Infections can also lead to the forming of an abscess between gum and tooth, requiring prompt attention to treat painful swelling.
Treatments to Get Rid of Gum Infections
Treating gum infections will largely depend on the severity and cause.
Common remedies include at-home treatments, dental procedures, or a combination of these. Many of the at-home treatments, however, work to relieve the symptoms of gum infections, including some abscesses, and may not be enough to cure the infection itself.
At-Home Treatments to Try
- Saltwater Mouth Rinse: This rinse helps to reduce the swelling and also kill bacteria as well as relieve pain. Combine ½ cup of warm water with ½ teaspoon of salt. Rinse your mouth for two minutes, then spit out. Repeat 2-3 times per day.
- Clove Oil Application: Clove, an ancient remedy for dental pain, consists of both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It comes in concentrated and diluted forms. If you have the diluted form, apply a few drops to a cotton swab and apply directly to the affected gum tissue. If concentrated, first dilute the oil with carrier oil. Use 2-3 times each day until symptoms disappear.
- Hydrogen Peroxide: Combine equal parts water and 3% hydrogen peroxide. Swish inside your mouth for several seconds before spitting out. This solution effectively cleans the gums, reduces plaque buildup on teeth, and lessens the bleeding of your gums.
- Baking Soda: Utilize the antibacterial properties of baking soda by rinsing your mouth with it. Start by mixing together ½ cup of water with ½ tablespoon of baking soda. Swish this solution around inside your mouth for 4-5 minutes before spitting out. Repeat 2-3 times per day,
- Coconut Oil Pulling: Another method used in ancient times, oil pulling helps cleanse the mouth. Coconut oil is useful because it contains high levels of antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Once coconut oil is at room temperature and in liquid form, swish 1-2 teaspoons around in your mouth. Keep this up for approximately 20 minutes and spit out. Rinse with water once before drinking a glass of water. Gently brush your teeth afterward. Avoid swallowing the oil, however, as it now contains the bacteria from your mouth tissue. It’s recommended you do this in the mornings, and if possible, on an empty stomach.
- Honey: Honey is nature’s pure medicine and can serve many purposes. Apply unfiltered, unpasteurized honey to gums. Avoid drinking or eating for at least a half-hour.
Home remedies like these should bring about improvements rather quickly. However, if they are not working, you may need more advanced treatments at your dental office.
- Scaling and Root Planing: Scaling and Root Planing is an advanced deep cleaning treatment focusing on the areas between teeth and gums and continuing all the way to the root of teeth.
- Antibiotics: Your dentist may recommend antibiotic therapy either in pill form or direct injection into the gum infection site.
- Gingivectomy: For extreme infections, you may need a Gingivectomy which is the removal of gum tissue.
- Flap Surgery: For the most severe cases of gum infection and disease, bone and tissue grafts may be needed.
No one wants to experience swollen, painful, or bleeding gums. The best way, then, to avoid gum infection is to practice good oral hygiene daily and schedule regular dental cleanings and exams.
Schedule Your Appointment with Dr. Bateson Today
While prevention is the best way to avoid developing gum infections, sometimes they sneak up on you. If you are experiencing any of the gum infection symptoms currently or haven’t had a teeth cleaning in a while, contact our office and schedule an appointment. Dr. Bateson will take the time to thoroughly examine your dental health, explain what she finds, and discuss your options going forward.