How To Treat Your Gum Infection Without Antibiotics

how to treat gum disease without antibiotics

If you have a bacterial gum infection that has caused a periodontal disease such as gingivitis (early gum disease) or periodontitis (advanced gum disease) you may think that antibiotics are required to treat the infection.  

The good news is that they are only prescribed to treat these gum infections in a very limited number of cases. Gum infections are caused by bacteria, so the best way to treat them is by eliminating the pathogens by practising good oral hygiene, not tetracycline hydrochloride, doxycycline, and minocycline. 

This post aims to explain how gum infections are treated without antibiotics. However, we start by describing when they are occasionally used and why their use is limited.

Why Antibiotic Therapy is Limited

Antibiotics are sometimes useful in the treatment and prevention of bacterial infections. They work by killing bacteria or preventing them from spreading. However, they are not used to treat all bacterial infections. 

There are several reasons why antibiotics are not routinely prescribed.

  • Gingivitis is not an infection. It’s an inflammatory reaction to plaque irritating the gums. It will often get better on its own with good oral hygiene.
  • Due to overuse, some people develop resistance so when they really need them to treat severe infections they are no longer effective.
  • Advanced periodontal disease, is caused by a chronic bacterial infection (it persists for a long time) and any treatment with antibiotic therapy would require prolonged use. Long-term treatment with them could lead to other problems, such as an overgrowth of fungal infections or other pathogens. Manual methods of removing plaque are more effective in most cases. 

They Are Used In A Limited Number Of Cases

In general, antibiotics are only indicated in a small number of cases. When they are prescribed it is only for a short period of time to quickly reduce the number of pathogens. 

They may be prescribed (1):

  • As prophylactic coverage before treatment to prevent postoperative infection in immunocompromised patients or a patient with prosthetic heart valves.
  • For acute infections such as severe abscesses or if the oral infection is causing systemic symptoms, such as fever or sickness.
  • To those people who do not respond to conventional therapy (refractory periodontitis) and those with aggressive periodontitis.
  • In combination with conventional treatment of advanced periodontitis when there is severe bone loss.

If you’ve been prescribed a course by your dentist and are reluctant to take them, discuss with your dentist the pros and cons of taking them.

Bacteria Causes Gum Infections

The best way to treat gum infections is by removing the cause. 

Gingivitis and Periodontitis are caused by bacteria that reside in the mouth. When harmful bacteria aren’t removed it accumulates and plaque forms. The plaque irritates the gums so they become red, swollen and may bleed, this is called gingivitis.

When gingivitis isn’t treated the bacteria can get below the gum line. The bacteria destroy the bone and soft tissue. Teeth may become wobbly and become at risk of falling out. 

In some cases, the accumulation of bacteria can lead to a gingival or periodontal abscess (2).

Treatment of Gum Infections without Antibiotics

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Whilst more advanced infections may need specialist treatment from expert dentists, developing and maintaining good oral hygiene is the first-line defence and treatment against gum infections.  We call this Daily Self-Performed Care.

The Basics of Good Daily Self-Performed Care

To keep your teeth and gums clean of harmful bacteria:

  • Clean into the PD pockets with a Gum Pocket Brush
  • Brush at least twice each day for 2 minutes
  • Clean between the teeth every day with floss, a water flosser or interdental brushes
  • Swap your toothbrush or electric toothbrush head every 3-4 months
  • Visit your dentist as recommended by them
  • Avoid foods and drinks high in sugar
  • Stop or reduce smoking, including e-cigarettes and vaping

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Advanced Periodontal Disease

In general, unless you have a build-up of hard tartar, gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease, can be easily treated and cured when you develop an oral hygiene routine that is first class. 

However, with advanced gum disease, you may need some help from dental professionals to remove the bacteria from tooth roots and any deep pockets that have developed in the gums. 

Although periodontal treatment aims to create an environment that allows you to maintain good oral hygiene, any treatment you have by your periodontist or dentist won’t work unless your oral hygiene is excellent to start with.

Periodontitis Treatments Include:

  • Root Surface Debridement and Scaling Treatment: This procedure removes plaque and tartar from above and beneath the gum line including the tooth root. 
  • Gingivectomy: A portion of the gum from in and around an infected tooth is removed to treat gum disease. 
  • Flap Surgery: This procedure aims to reduce or eliminate periodontal pockets by raising some of your gum for easier cleaning, diseased tissue can be removed, and the root can be cleaned at the same time. In some instances, bone grafts and procedures to regenerate soft tissues may be carried out.  

Treating Gingival and Periodontal Abscesses

If the bacterial infection has caused an abscess it will need to be drained to remove debris and bacteria from periodontal pockets. Scaling and root planing may also be carried out to give the gums a deep clean and ensure no bacteria remains. 

If you have an abscess temporarily avoid flossing around the area and use a soft toothbrush to clean your teeth.  Should you need to take pain relief Ibruprofen is generally recommended. A cold compress can also help to reduce the pain. Notify your dentist immediately.

Home Remedies

Several natural remedies have been studied for their effectiveness in treating periodontitis and gingivitis

However, the only way to get rid of gum infection is to remove the bacteria manually with a toothbrush or advanced treatments at the dentist. 

Suggested remedies include salt water (3) or baking soda (4) rinses, probiotics (5), oil pulling and using herbs such as cloves. 

However, they are not routinely recommended by dental professionals or any leading healthcare organisations in the UK or the USA. 

Preventing Gum Infections

Preventing gum infections is better than trying to treat and cure them after they have caused damage to your gums, alveolar bone and other soft tissues. 

The best way to prevent gum infections is with good oral hygiene and eliminating or controlling risk factors. 

Smoking, uncontrolled diabetes and diets high in sugar create an environment that allows harmful bacteria to survive in the mouth. Stopping smoking, controlling diabetes and reducing the amount of sugar in your diet can help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and prevent gum disease. 

When to See A Dentist About Gum Infections

For those with a bacterial infection that has caused a periodontal or gingival abscess, a tooth infection or severe painful symptoms then it may be advisable to book an appointment with a dentist for treatment. 

Takeaway

Gum infections are caused by bacterial infections and in the majority of cases, the best way to treat them is without antibiotics. 

The best way to treat gum infections is by developing and maintaining good oral hygiene by brushing your teeth twice and cleaning between the teeth daily. 

You can make a start on the healing and recovery process without seeing a dentist by using good brushing techniques and the right tools to clean between the teeth and under the gum line.

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Sources

  1. Systemic antibiotic therapy in periodontics – PMC
  2. Microbiota in Human Periodontal Abscess Revealed by 16S rDNA Sequencing – PMC
  3. Anti-inflammatory effect of salt water and chlorhexidine 0.12% mouthrinse after periodontal surgery: a randomized prospective clinical study
  4. Baking soda dentifrices and oral health – The Journal of the American Dental Association
  5. Probiotics in the treatment of periodontal disease: A systematic review – PMC
Gareth Edwards image

Written by Gareth Edwards

Co-Founder & GDG Dentist

Dr. Gareth Edwards BDS (Hons) MFDS (RCPS Glasgow) is GDG Co-Founder and Gum Disease Expert.

He is a practicing dentist based in Bournemouth, UK and has treated thousands of patients with gum-related diseases.

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