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Treating Gingivitis: Tools to Improve Home Care

May 05, 2017 

Author: Amber Auger RDH MPH

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of adults 30 years-of-age and older have periodontal disease. As an oral health professional, you know that healthy gums are not supposed to bleed. Your patients, however, may think bleeding gums are normal and not give it a second thought. That is where your dental hygienist expertise can help.

You understand the systemic and oral health links, and it is your responsibility to identify and help your patients rectify poor at-home habits that may be impacting their gingival health. When you properly educate your patients as you treat their gingivitis, it can help them improve their oral hygiene to prevent gingivitis and its possible progression to periodontitis. And, using suitable technologies allows you to effectively treat gingivitis in the office and to make home care recommendations that patients can follow that can result in healthier gums between visits.

Here are some steps you can take in the office to treat gingivitis and to help your patients prevent and treat reversible gingivitis.

Treat Gingivitis In-Office

Professional cleanings are an integral part of gum health. The removal of calculus is essential to help reduce bacteria associated with gingival inflammation and to prevent its interference with oral hygiene. Hand scaling instruments and/or powered technologies such as magnetostrictive or piezoelectric ultrasonic scalers can be used in the office. Other technologies, such as a prophy jet, remove stains and bacteria quickly. The treatment of gingivitis chairside may be difficult and painful for patients, especially in severe cases; therefore a topical anesthetic may be needed to properly debride.

Identify Patient Limitations

Listening to your patients will help you determine what is inhibiting them from proper home care. Patients may not comply with meticulous home care for a number of reasons. They may not have the knowledge or the time to properly care for their oral health. Or, they may determine that some steps, like flossing, are too inconvenient.

After you identify your patient's greatest obstacle, you can help him or her overcome it. Patients with minimal interproximal space, wisdom teeth and tight cheeks may have difficulty flossing. When recommending interdental aids, evaluate each patient's mouth and tailor your recommendations accordingly. For example, alternatives to dental floss that can be recommended include a soft pick, interdental brush, a water-powered interdental cleaner or an air flosser. Similarly, if a patient with arthritis is having a difficult time brushing with a traditional toothbrush, recommend an electric model to help him or her brush properly.

Provide Visual Aids

Incorporating visual aids will help patients understand why their inflammation is impacting their dental health. For instance, if the probing depths are 3 to 4 mm with bleeding on probing, patients may be more likely to follow home care instructions if they understand that a 4 to 5 mm pocket probing depth with bleeding on probing and bone loss signifies chronic periodontitis. Colgate's new tool, Gum Health Physical, includes a probing demonstration that is an effective way to demonstrate probing depths.

Obtaining an intra-oral photo of the red gingiva and showing this to patients may encourage them to take responsibility for their gum health. Additionally, show your patients the calculus or plaque you scrape off their teeth. They won't be able to deny that their home care routine needs to be amended when they are presented with the physical evidence.

Customize Home Care Packs

Each patient has a different need, therefore it is important to incorporate multiple product recommendations in the office. For example, Colgate Total toothpaste can help prevent plaque and gingivitis, and it makes for a great recommendation. Once patients are motivated to improve their oral health, they may become overwhelmed trying to purchase the products that were recommended chairside. Handouts and samples may help ensure patients are purchasing the products that were recommended.


  • Scale and polish patients' teeth to help improve their gum health.
  • Provide visual aids and physical evidence to help patients understand how gingivitis harms their mouth.
  • Customize home care recommendations so that patients can improve their oral hygiene routine.

Why It's Important

Empowering patients to take ownership of their oral health is really important. If you teach patients how gingivitis affects their mouth and provide them with home care instructions, they may be more likely to improve their daily oral hygiene routine, thus keeping gingivitis at bay.

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