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Periodontal Disease: Nonsurgical Treatments

Tooth in cross section of gum and bone. Plaque on base and most of root of tooth. Gum is swollen. Instrument is scraping plaque from lower part of tooth.
Scaling at and just below the gumline reaches tartar deposits that can’t be removed in an ordinary dental cleaning.

Some treatments for periodontal disease don't involve surgery. The goal of these treatments is to make conditions that allow tissues in the mouth to heal. This is done by reducing plaque, infection, and other causes of periodontal disease. About  4 to 8 weeks after starting a treatment, you’ll have an evaluation by your dental care provider. Depending on different factors, surgery may be the next step.

Scaling and root planing

This treatment is performed by a dentist or a dental hygienist. Sometimes a special ultrasonic device is used to remove heavy deposits. Then plaque and tartar are removed (scaling), and the root surfaces are smoothed (root planing). This helps keep the area free of bacteria. It may also help ligaments that have broken down to reattach to the teeth. This reduces the depth of pockets that have formed in the gums around the teeth.


Infection can be treated with antimicrobials. They decrease bacteria. They may be in the form of antibiotics or other antibacterial agents, like chlorhexidine gluconate. Antibiotics may be taken in pill form or as a powder placed directly into the infected pocket. Chlorhexidine gluconate may be used as an oral rinse after brushing.

Tooth in cross section of gum and bone. Plaque on base and most of root of tooth. Gum is swollen. Instrument is scraping plaque from root of tooth.
Root planing smoothes rough spots on the roots where bacteria collect.

Bite correction

Bite problems, like an uneven bite, can worsen bone loss. Grinding or clenching the teeth may add to the problem. A splint or other ways of adjusting the bite can reduce pressure and help control the damage.

Home care

Home care is your best tool against periodontal disease. Brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day can help improve your gum health. This can prevent tooth loss. It may also help you avoid surgery. It’s easy to make a habit of brushing and flossing—and it’s not too late to start! Ask your dentist to show you the right way to brush and floss.

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Michael Kapner MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Rita Sather RN
Date Last Reviewed: 6/1/2020
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