Gum Disease (Gingivitis)

  • Medical Author:
    Steven B. Horne, DDS

    Dr. Steve Horne began his career at Brigham Young University obtaining his BA in English. He earned his Doctorate of Dental Surgery in 2007 from the University of Southern California where his pursuit for academic excellence landed him on the Dean's List. He was recognized for his superior clinical skills and invited to help teach other dental students in courses on restorative dentistry, prosthodontics, and tooth anatomy. During dental school, he provided dental care for underserved populations of Los Angeles and Orange County, Mexico, and Costa Rica with AYUDA. Following dental school, Dr. Horne entered active duty with the U.S. Army and practiced dentistry at Fort Knox, Kentucky, for four years. During this time, he was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, and received multiple Army Achievement Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, and served as Company Commander. Dr. Horne currently practices full time at Torrey Pines Dental Arts in La Jolla, California, as a general dentist. Dr. Horne is a member of the American Dental Association, the California Dental Association, and the Academy of General Dentistry. Dr. Horne is married to his wife, Christy, and they have a chocolate Labrador named Roscoe.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Shocking Diseases of the Mouth

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Dental Health: The Ugly Truth About Your Toothbrush

Are home remedies or natural treatments effective for gum disease?

There has been evidence to suggest the effectiveness of the following over-the-counter and natural treatments for gum disease:

  • Green tea has antioxidants that reduce inflammation in the body.
  • Hydrogen peroxide helps kill bacteria when used as a mouthwash or as a gel in a custom fitted tray, but it cannot be swallowed.
  • Warm saltwater rinse reduces inflammation and kills bacteria, but daily use will damage the teeth.
  • Baking soda and water can be used to brush the teeth to help neutralize the acids that can cause gum disease.
  • Oil pulling (swishing or rinsing) -- there has been little evidence to prove that sesame oil or coconut oil can help reduce bacteria that cause gum disease, but this is a popular practice. On a case by case basis, people have noticed improvement with this treatment.
  • In addition, see the section on prevention of gum disease and on toothpaste.

Is it possible to reverse gum disease?

As long as the causes of gum disease are correctly identified and the patient is persistent in improving their oral hygiene and seeking necessary treatment, gum disease can be reversible. The prognosis is best when treatment is obtained in early stages of gingivitis. At this stage, the affected person usually just needs a professional dental cleaning and more thorough brushing and flossing to reverse disease. As the condition turns from acute to chronic (chronic gingivitis), and from gingivitis to periodontitis or to ANUG, the prognosis gets less predictable. Therefore, it is very important to catch and treat gum disease as early as possible.

Is gum disease associated with other health problems?

There have been many attempts to understand the link between gum disease and other systemic health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer's disease. Comparing the bacteria that cause dental plaque with the bacteria involved in heart disease suggests a correlation between gum disease and heart disease, but researchers have been unable to establish a cause and effect relationship. These types of relationships are difficult to prove or disprove, so it is fair to assume that aiming for a life free of gum disease will only help in leading a generally healthier life.

While it may be hard to prove what health problems gum disease directly causes, it is known that certain health problems can cause gum disease. If there are any sudden changes to a person's medical condition, they should ask their primary-care provider or dentist if there might be any effects on oral health. Healthy gums can quickly become threatened when the body's overall health diminishes or changes for any reason.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/6/2016

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