I'm going through this on a daily basis so I'm answering this with personal experience. It depends on how advanced your condition has become. In other words, how infected with bacteria your gums have become. See a dental hygienist as soon as you can. If your gums bleed when you brush or floss or your gums bleed easily when gently poked, you most likely have gum disease. It all depends on how advanced your case is, and there are 4 stages from what I have been told. Stage 1 has the best chance of being cured or the bacterial level being able to be reversed, stages 2 thru 4 are incurable. I was told I was between a stage 2 and 3. Your dental hygienist will tell you. Do not gauge for yourself. From what I've been told, once you have gum disease you have it for life. Your mouth is like Disneyland for bacteria. Like most visitors, they'll never stop coming back. Since my case was slightly advanced, they did a scaling/root planing procedure which was where they gave me a local anesthetic and basically scrubbed my gums from the root and up. After that I have to go in every 3 months or so to have what's knows as periodontal maintenance done. What they do is a cleaning of my gums, not the scaling root planing, just a general cleaning. Then my gums get flushed with medication, then irrigated. This keeps the bacteria from infecting my gums further, combined with my own personal home care of flossing and proper brushing. They also check the gum pockets in order to make sure my teeth aren't falling out of the gum line. It sucks, but once you have it there is no turning back. Good Luck!
That was a very well articulated answer. I'm so impressed that all of that nicely explained information came from a patient and not a dental professional! It sounds like you must have a very thorough, informative hygienist helping you to understand your condition. Makes me proud of my profession.
So, I am a registered dental hygienist, and in addition to all of the wonderful information in the last posting, I'll add this:
If your "gum disease" (periodontal disease) is early and has not yet invaded the jaw bone, then there is still a chance that it could be reversed. however, once the bone around your teeth becomes infected and starts to break down, it is incurable. At that point, the best we can do is to stop or slow the progression and maintain what is left. If you have been told that you have any 5mm pockets or deeper, then you are probably in the incurable phase. 4mm pockets are borderline.
Obviously, as a dental hygienist I am going to recommend that you see your dentist or hygienist about this, professional intervention is truly your best bet. However, if you want to help the condition or try and somehow positively impact your situation from home there are a few things I would recommend:
#1 If you smoke, QUIT SMOKING!!! Most advanced cases of perio are also smokers. It is the #1 link to periodontal disease
#2 if you have diabetes, do your best to keep your blood sugar well controlled. Take your medications as directed. Control your diet as recommended. Uncontrolled or poorly controlled Diabetes is the #2 link to perio.
#3 Buy a Sonicare or Oral-B Sonic Complete electric Toothbrush. Any of the higher end models that cost around $100 and say the word "sonic" in them will be beneficial. You will get superior plaque removal results, and it is the bacterial plaque that causes perio. Use this at least 2x a day for 2 mins. (there is a built in 2 min timer, isn't that nice?)
#4 Floss.....yes I know, the "F" word. But you NEED to floss, at least once a day. Sorry, you just have to.
#5 If you absolutely won't floss regularly then you need to do SOMETHING every day to clean in between your teeth such as stimudents, a tooth pick, a prox-a-brush or a water-pik. But, I promise...NONE of these are as good, or as cheap as regular old floss.
#6 Consider antiseptic mouthrinses. Now, I personally don't use a daily mouthrinse because I haven't seen enough clinical evidence that it is beneficial, however, I don't think it could hurt. Listerine would be an example, Crest Pro-Health rinse is another example (but watch out, it stains some people's teeth) or even a simple hydrogen peroxide rinse which can be mixed at home. If you are a smoker I would not recommend the hydrogen peroxide rinse, however, because there is some evidence that suggests that particular combination might increase your risk for oral cancer.
There are many many more factors that go into the prevention, treatment and maintenance of periodontal disease, but that ought to be enough to keep you busy for a while.
Managing gum disease is all about daily plaque control - essentially sound oral hygiene. That means, in most cases, stopping the plaque in your mouth is really in your own hands. Brush every day. Floss every day. Period. Your dentist or oral hygienist may recommend fluoride toothpaste or tartar reduction rinses. Colgate Total is approved by the FDA for helping to prevent advanced gum disease by reducing plaque and tartar.
Dental professionals recommend oral irrigation as a great way to really clean teeth and gums. Oral irrigators get what tooth brushes and floss don't, so plaque and tartar and the resulting advanced gum disease never come back.
Oral irrigators flood the mouth with a jet of water under pressure to flush offending food particles and bacteria from the mouth. From under the gum line where the infection is. It is just like a wound on your arm - you must keep it clean for it to heal. And now there's fresh evidence that advanced gum disease responds well to oral irrigators. Do not use any mouthwash that has alcohol as an ingredient.
The alcohol kills the good bacteria as well as the bad.