Gum disease, also referred to as periodontal disease or periodontitis, primarily affects the gums and tissues that hold the teeth in place. Even in healthy gums, the tops of the gums don’t attach directly to the root of the tooth. Instead, there’s a small space referred to as a sulcus. Bacteria and food particles can often collect here, and when not routinely cleared away through proper brushing and flossing, the infection can start here, resulting in inflammation. If gum disease goes untreated, the infection will spread deeper and begin to cause the gum tissues to separate further from the teeth. This results in the formation of periodontal pockets—small spaces between the gums and tooth roots where more bacteria can spread.

It’s important to treat gum disease, as it will eventually continue until the connective tissue that holds the teeth in place can no longer do its job, and tooth loss will result. Pocket irrigation is a course of treatment Dr. Godat or Dr. King may recommend in addition to other treatments, depending on the severity of the gum disease.

What is pocket irrigation?

Pocket irrigation often follows after scaling and planing treatment, where the exposed roots of the teeth are cleaned and smoothed to prevent further accumulation of plaque. Once this has been done, any remaining plaque or debris will be flushed out with a stream of water and/or an antibacterial agent. This helps to prevent further reinfection.

Once gum pockets have developed, keeping them clean and free of bacteria will become an important part of your oral hygiene. Dr. Godat or Dr. King may recommend a home oral irrigation tool such as a WaterPik to help with this.

These can be useful for…

  • Cleaning spaces between teeth – Gum pockets and gum recession can make it harder to reach spaces between teeth with just a toothbrush
  • Preventing bad breath – The food particles and bacteria that are trapped in gum pockets can result in bad breath, as well as promote periodontal disease
  • Cleaning below the gum-line – In addition to brushing and flossing, oral irrigation can help catch any debris that might have been missed during your home care routine

If you use a WaterPik at home, be sure to discuss the proper use with our team to make sure you’re doing it correctly.