10 Frequently Asked Questions About Gum Disease Answered

Reviewed by Dr. Matthew Young, DDS

Gum disease is a common oral health issue affecting millions worldwide. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatment options is essential for preventing this condition.

In this blog post, we will answer the most frequently asked questions about gum disease to equip you with knowledge to protect your oral health.

Table of Contents

1. What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, or periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums caused by bacteria in the mouth.

Gum disease is caused by plaque buildup on the teeth, which can harden into tartar and cause inflammation of the gums. If left untreated, it can progress to more severe stages and even lead to tooth loss.

2. What Does the Start of Gum Disease Look Like?

The initial symptoms of gum disease can be subtle, but recognizing them early on is key to preventing further damage. The most common signs include:

  • Red gums that are tender and swollen
  • Gums that bleed from brushing or flossing
  • Teeth that appear longer due to receding gums
  • Sensitivity to hot or cold
  • Unexplained bad breath
  • Loose teeth

3. What Are the Stages of Gum Disease?

Periodontal disease progresses through four main stages, each escalating in severity and potential harm to oral health:

  1. Gingivitis: Gum disease begins with inflammation and redness of the gums caused by a buildup of plaque. If not removed, dental plaque can harden into tartar and worsen gum irritation. Symptoms include bleeding during brushing or flossing. Gingivitis is reversible with professional dental care and good oral hygiene.
  2. Early periodontitis: As plaque and tartar accumulate, the gums pull away from the teeth, forming spaces called pockets. Mild bone loss can occur, but with early detection and treatment, the damage can be contained and further progression prevented.
  3. Moderate periodontitis: In this stage, the infection has spread deeper, causing damage to the gums and bone. The gums may recede even more, and pockets deepen, making it easier for bacteria to accumulate. Treatment involves extensive cleaning and possibly surgery to prevent tooth loss.
  4. Advanced periodontitis: Severe gum disease can lead to significant bone loss, deep pockets, and pus in the gums. Symptoms include pain, bad breath, a foul taste, and loose teeth. Treatment at this stage may require surgery to save teeth and prevent further damage.

4. Can You Reverse Gum Disease?

Gingivitis can be reversed with professional treatment and good oral care at home. The goal is to remove plaque and bacteria-laden tartar from the teeth and gums, stopping inflammation. However, once it has progressed to the advanced stages, the damage done to the teeth or surrounding bone structure can’t be reversed. 

Treatments include professional cleaning or root planing and scaling. Good oral care at home includes brushing twice daily, daily flossing, and regular use of antiseptic mouthwash.

Read here for the periodontal treatments offered at Young Dental SF Group.

5. When Is It Too Late To Reverse Gum Disease?

It is not possible to reverse the effects of gum disease if it has progressed to the advanced stages. You can treat gum disease in every stage, but the damage it does cannot be reversed. The treatment becomes more complex as the disease progresses, and the focus shifts from managing to curbing bacterial growth.

In advanced stages, surgical intervention may be necessary to clean unreachable areas under the gum line with regular cleaning methods.

6. How Long Does It Take for Gum Disease To Kill You?

Gum disease itself is unlikely to be fatal. However, the bacteria and inflammatory response associated with periodontal disease can contribute to systemic health conditions, potentially increasing the risk of heart disease, diabetes complications, and respiratory disease.

7. How Can You Treat Gum Disease at Home?

Good dental hygiene is essential in managing and preventing gum disease. Here are steps you can take at home to aid in the treatment of gum disease:

  • Use proper brushing techniques with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Floss daily to remove plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach.
  • Rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash to help control plaque and bacteria.
  • Use a tongue cleaner to remove bacteria from your tongue.
  • Stop smoking, as it’s a significant risk factor for the development and progression of gum disease.

8. What Is the Best Toothpaste for Gum Disease?

Choose a toothpaste that fights plaque, reduces gingivitis, and strengthens gum tissue. If possible, look for a toothpaste that contains stannous fluoride. This ingredient is known for its dual action in preventing tooth decay by remineralizing tooth enamel and inhibiting the growth of harmful, cavity-causing bacteria. Moreover, stannous fluoride can help reduce tooth sensitivity, often caused by gum recession associated with periodontal disease.

If you can’t find toothpaste with stannous fluoride, toothpaste with sodium fluoride is still a better option than no fluoride since it helps prevent tooth decay.

9. What Is the Best Mouthwash for Gum Disease?

Similar to toothpaste, the best mouthwash is one that is antibacterial and antiseptic. Chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash is commonly recommended by dentists for its effectiveness in controlling plaque and treating gingivitis.

It is essential, however, to use under your dentist’s or doctor’s guidance, as prolonged use can lead to staining on the teeth.

10. How Long Does Gum Disease Last?

The duration varies widely among individuals and is heavily dependent on the stage of the disease at the time of diagnosis and treatment initiation. For those in the early stages of gingivitis, it can be managed in 2-3 weeks with proper daily self-care such as brushing, flossing, and using antiseptic mouthwash.

Advanced stages may require months of diligent oral care and professional treatment. Regular visits to a dental professional and diligent oral care at home are crucial in controlling gum disease at any stage.

Young Dental SF Group: Your San Francisco Dentist for Gum Disease Treatment

At Young Dental SF Group, we are committed to helping you achieve and maintain optimal oral health, including treating and managing gum disease. Whether you are experiencing the early signs of gingivitis or dealing with more advanced stages of periodontitis, our team of dental professionals is here to provide personalized, effective treatment options.

Don’t wait for your gum disease to progress—take the first step towards a healthier mouth and a brighter smile. If you are searching for a ‘gum disease treatment in San Francisco’ or a ‘gum disease treatment dentist near me,’ contact us today. Call (415) 392-8611 or complete the online booking form.