Gum disease can be treated with a variety of methods, from professional dental cleaning for mild cases of gingivitis to oral surgery for cases where gingivitis has progressed to periodontitis. But the best way to manage gum disease is to prevent it, and one of the keys to preventing gingivitis is to floss your teeth daily. Studies have shown that regular flossing using proper flossing technique reduces plaque and improves gum health more than tooth brushing alone.
In one study published in the Journal of Periodontology that included 51 pairs of twins, one member of each pair was instructed to follow an oral care routine of either tooth brushing and tongue brushing or tooth brushing and flossing. The twins were assessed for gingival bleeding and bad breath, which are two signs of increased risk for severe gum disease. After two weeks, the twins in the flossing group showed statistically significant improvement in both gingival bleeding and bad breath compared to their baseline measurements, while the twins who didn’t floss showed no statistically significant improvement from baseline.
In another study, researchers followed 124 people with relatively healthy gums who followed a consistent, thorough oral care routine for three years. Following a regular oral care routine that included both tooth brushing and flossing prevented gingivitis and specifically reduced the amounts of 35 out of 40 different species of infection-promoting bacteria, including those that occupied the gingival space between teeth and along the gum line. Reducing the amount of unhealthy bacteria reduces the redness and inflammation that are associated with gingivitis, the researchers noted.
When it comes to gingivitis treatment, there are several options your dentist may recommend. Sometimes, dental health professionals use a specialized ruler, called a periodontal probe, to measure the “pockets”, which are the areas between your teeth and gums. The pockets in a healthy mouth are usually one to three millimeters deep. If they are deeper, your dentist may recommend a more aggressive treatments.
The most common types of antibiotics used to treat gingivitis in mouth rinses, gels, chips or pills include doxycycline and minocycline. If your dentist recommends antibiotics, be sure to discuss any medication allergies or risks for side effects that you may have. Remember that even medications in conjunction with deep cleaning may not be enough, and you may need surgery to treat severe gum disease and reduce your risk of tooth loss.
But no matter how mild or severe your gum disease, a consistent oral health routine is essential to your recovery and to help keep further infections from occurring. Your gums will probably be sensitive after any type of treatment, but don’t let that stop you from including flossing in your routine. Try soft floss to avoid irritating vulnerable spots.