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It's worse than I thought...but my hygienist says my gums CAN be redeemed...


Menopausal Magpie

Dec 10, 2009
OK. So. For those who don't remember me (it's been a while!), I had a gum infection back in January, and my NHS dentist told me I was probably going to lose that tooth, so I finally decided to take the plunge and go private, which I'd been considering for a while.

Best. Decision. Ever. Yes, it's proven expensive so far, but I am getting SO much more time and attention than I could have done from my former dentist. All credit to the NHS, and I'm sure there are many excellent NHS dentists (and yes, I could have looked for one, but getting ANY NHS dentist is pretty hard in my area), but this one was giving me suspiciously short, cursory exams, and when the infection cropped up, it was clear I was NOT 'doing fine' with my dental regime.

So, the new private dentist (recommended by a friend) has been LOVELY. She talked everything over with me, looked at the questionnaire I'd filled in from this site - I mean, she REALLY looked at it and took it to heart. The previously infected tooth has been extracted and is awaiting a bridge. (I opted not to have a temporary as I'm wearing a mask much of the time right now anyway!)

And so to the hygienist, yesterday, to have half my mouth done. She too was lovely, but it was clear when she was doing the charting that my gums were MUCH worse than my former dentist had made them out to be. So it started with 2s, and I'm like, OK...then to a 5, then an 8...and the very last tooth on the upper left back was a 10mm! ?

She assured me that it CAN be arrested - with care and attention and a revised cleaning regime from me at home - and proceeded to numb me up and start cleaning. This was almost completely painless, albeit the pressure and scraping were a bit disconcerting as she was doing it manually (couldn't use sonic, because aerosols). But she assured me it was nothing to worry about and she wasn't going to damage anything.

(I zoned out by - don't laugh - going through the plot of The Lord of the Rings in my head. I've sometimes used this method when I couldn't sleep. I got as far as Lothlorien before my attention wandered. I suspect any long book you know well might also work...)

When we were done, she cleaned me up a bit and then demonstrated (in my mouth) how to use four different sizes of Tepes effectively (I have a lot of different size gaps between my teeth apparently, and floss harps weren't doing the job), and then she sat me up and (on a model) demonstrated a better way to use my electric toothbrush. This was something my former dentist had NEVER done.

So.... I'm going back to have the other half of my mouth done in early December. The hygienist warned that it would take time - we're talking months - to get my higher numbers down to 4mm, which she says she'd be happy with as long as there was no inflammation.

I took quite a bit longer than usual to clean my teeth last night (ignore the two minute timer on the toothbrush, she said, that's a minimum, and doing it like she said I took just over four minutes). So hopefully, with work from me, this IS salvageable. But it's definitely worse than the old dentist told me...?
If it were me in your place, I'd be really happy and feeling confident I was getting the best care possible. And the situation is totally salvageable. Well done to you. PS. I often get myself to sleep with the plot of Lord of the Rings, sometimes naming every character in alpabetical order!
HI Menopausal Magpie,

thanks for coming back and giving us an update! I'm so glad to read that you have found a dentist who can give your the time and attention you need to feel comfortable and taken seriously. It sounds like your visit went really good and you did great during the cleaning.

I see the ambivalency over the state of your gums - you are glad that it is salvageable and that you have this support on one hand, but you also struggle to get used to the fact that the situation is worse than you assumed, based on what your dentist told you. The best idea for now may be to decide where to put your attention - you could either grief over the past and the bad job your last dentist did or you could look forward and keep in mind that the situation is not hopeless. So in few months, your gums will be great and that's the important thing..

All the best wishes, may you get used to your new hygiene routine soon!
Many thanks for the update ! I'm very relieved to hear that you're getting such good care now - that's great news :perfect:. It sounds like you've been doing really well with the dental work and the cleaning.

The news from the hygienist must have come as quite a shock, considering what you'd been told in the past. Part of that might be the different scoring system they used? Most commonly in the UK, the BPE (Basic Periodontal Examination) is used. This goes from 0 to 4, with 4 (the maximum score) meaning gum pockets deeper than 5.5mm. Not that it makes any difference - clearly, they didn't convey that something needed to be done urgently, and didn't offer you the appropriate treatment.

But as everyone has said, the important thing is that something can be done about it and that it most likely is salvageable ?.

P.S. for anyone looking for the questionnaires which you can print out and give to potential dentists, they're here:

That sounds like a really good outcome. Well done for being so calm and brave, it sounds like you have a really good dental team behind you which is definitely key when you have a phobia.
Thanks, lovely people! I'm trying to see the positive and hoping I can work towards a healthier mouth.

Trying to get to grips with the new Tepes - some of them are MUCH thicker than I've ever used in the past (the biggest is the one with the black grip?). Gums still a bit sore when brushing, but no actual bleeding that I can see when I spit now. Just need to keep up the regime...
It took me ages to get to grips with the tepee brushes. I use the smallest ones and have done for quite a while but I still struggle at times to get the angle right so I'm not nicking my gums. You can buy the long ones which are angled slightly, I find those better for reaching the back teeth.

Stick at it and it'll get easier.
It's getting easier as I go along - I'm getting to know which brushes will go between which teeth.

Just for fun, here's my lovely purple tongue after the disclosing tablets I just used (I hadn't used them since I was a kid, but the hygienist said they might help). I'd forgotten how vivid they were! As an artist, I'm almost tempted to try using them in my journals...
I am so pleased its getting easier for you. Soon it will be like second nature for you.
Your experience sounds so similar to mine. I knew my gums weren't great, but it was only when I went to a private dentist last year I learnt I had advanced gum disease. Like you my readings had some frighteningly high scores. A year on things are improving with good dental care and a strict cleaning regime. I wanted to let you know you are not alone with this problem
I also have a nasty gum disease, I am curious - when people say things get better, do they mean the gums grow back, or just stabilize and become healthy? I know gums are not supposed to be able to grow back, but it seems like such soft tissue, so I always wonder.