As we continue to live through the days of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we know it can be difficult for some patients to seek dental care. For some it is impossible as dentists in their area are not open for business, and for others, it is inadvisable because they are at a high risk for the coronavirus. At Rockland Dental Specialists, we remain committed to caring for our patients through any means available. This week, that means providing you with valuable information about gum infections.
What Causes Infections in the Gums?
Infections in the gums can come from bacteria building up either inside the tooth or around it. Those inside the tooth (called endodontic infections) are usually the result of large cavities or cracks that allow bacteria to reach the nerve and blood vessels within the center of each tooth. The infections that develop around a tooth (called periodontal infections) result from plaque and tartar buildup underneath the gums.
Both types of infections require dental intervention, and both can have serious consequences if ignored!
How Do I Know if I Have a Gum Infection?
A gum infection can show itself in a few different ways. It is very important to understand that it may not cause any pain! The absence of pain does not mean that you can assume all is well inside your mouth.
Gum infections may include one or more of the following signs and symptoms:
- A raised bump or swelling on the side of the gums next to a tooth
- Puffy, red gums that bleed easily
- A small, pimple-like swelling
- Oozing pus next to a tooth
- A large swelling in the jaws, face, or neck
- Severe bad breath
- Looseness of a tooth or teeth
When Should I Seek Dental Care for a Gum Infection?
Unfortunately, it is impossible to “cure” a gum infection without dental treatment. In order to remove the bacterial source of the infection, a dentist must clean it out completely. This occurs within a tooth during a root canal procedure, or around a tooth during periodontal treatments. A dentist can also remove the source of a gum infection by removing the tooth. Extraction removes the bacteria, whether they are inside or around the tooth, and allows your body to heal from the infection.
Many people mistakenly assume that they can fix a gum infection on their own, which only allows it to worsen into a painful or dangerous situation. That being said, you should seek dental care for a gum infection as soon as you can. The sooner your dentist intervenes, the safer you are.
If your gum infection involves a large jaw, face, or neck swelling, you should seek urgent dental care immediately!
What Can I Do at Home for a Gum Infection?
In the event that you are unable to seek dental care in the near future, there are some important steps you can take to alleviate the symptoms of a gum infection. These steps do not replace dental treatment. They simply help you manage it on your own until you can see the dentist.
Keep your mouth as healthy as possible.
We cannot overemphasize the importance of great oral hygiene. When you are developing a gum infection, you need to work diligently to reduce the overall “bacterial load” in your mouth. You must remove plaque from the teeth and gums on a consistent basis to do this. A great oral hygiene routine includes brushing twice daily (preferably after breakfast and before bed), flossing every night, and using a mouthwash recommended by your dentist.
Infections lead to an inflammatory response by the human body. This is what makes infections hurt. In order to reduce inflammation, you can take several different steps.
- Take anti-inflammatory medication. There are many great anti-inflammatory drugs available over the counter. These include Advil, Aleve, and Aspirin. Tylenol does not have anti-inflammatory activity.
- Watch your sugar intake. Sugar feeds inflammation, so you should decrease the amount of sugar that you eat and drink. This includes other simple carbohydrates like chips, crackers, rice and potatoes. Obviously, this is especially important for patients with diabetes.
Flush away debris.
Warm salt-water rinses are helpful to flush away plaque and food debris that collects on the gums. They can reduce inflammation, too. You should perform them by swishing warm salt water around the mouth for one to two minutes up to five times per day.
Try home remedies.
Home remedies, like oil pulling or DIY mouthrinses containing essential oils, can be helpful in slowing down the progression of infection. Oil pulling reduces plaque buildup, and essentials oils such as peppermint, clove, and myrrh have antibacterial properties. Make sure to dilute any essential oils in water, as they can be too harsh at full strength.
More Questions about Gum Infections?
Call Rockland Dental Specialists to schedule a consultation with our wonderful gum specialists. We can answer any question you have, assess your current situation, and recommend the best course of action to prevent further damage from gum disease.