Gum Receding Between Two Teeth, What To Do?
December 1, 2014 6:42 PM   Subscribe

The gum between two of my back teeth has been painfully inflamed since Friday, and in attempting to address it today I discovered that there's a rather sizable divot between the teeth that I can see when I use floss to push the infected gum down. I'm too young to have receding gums. My dentist is on vacation until my appointment with him next Thursday. What can/should I do in the interim?

I am falling apart this month. Last week I started treatment for hypothyroidism and between feeling both exhausted and depressed, I somehow got a nasty gum infection and am not sure how it happened or what to do about it. My gums are sort of sensitive to begin with, but normally if I get an inflamed area it dissipates in about 24 hrs. It's been 3-4 days now and the gum seems to have completely disappeared down the middle between the teeth, though at first glance everything looks normal albeit red and bloody. To make matters worse, the food I gotta keep eating to help with my thyroid keeps getting stuck in the divot.

Dentist's on vacation till next week. My GP loves me but not enough to see me for one measly infected tooth. My normally very medically wise parents keep making "you have scurvy!" jokes because they're a pair of nerds. What can I do to stop the pain and prevent the infection from eating my gum away more?

yes I recognize the eponysterical aspect of this post thank you
posted by Hermione Granger to Health & Fitness (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I had something very similar happen to me recently (and, in fact, I posted about it on AskMeFil). Here's how I solved the problem.
  1. I bought a Waterpik and used it soon after every meal. I was amazed (and somewhat grossed-out) by the amount of food that was getting trapped in that gingival pocket.
  2. I started flossing regularly. I used the floss after the Waterpik, as the floss alone didn't work very well at removing the trapped food.
  3. I began rinsing with a chlorhexidine gluconate mouthwash (it was prescribed by my dentist). I did this three or four times per day for a couple of months.
  4. My dentist fixed a damaged composite filling that was on one of the affected teeth. Repairing this filling had an immediate beneficial effect on the amount of food that was getting trapped.
The problem went away after about three or four weeks. Not sure which intervention(s) were responsible. But I've tried to maintain better oral hygiene since this unpleasant little episode.
posted by alex1965 at 6:52 PM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]

This sounds scary and I'm so sorry you're experiencing this!! Could you go see a different dentist while yours is away? (I'm sure their office could recommend a local alternative.) Or, if you're really worried, how about going to urgent care tomorrow if your GP won't see you.

And, if I may, I think it's really crappy that your GP won't schedule an appointment with you, especially after you've just started treatment for hypothyroidism?! Did they truly say they wouldn't see you or do you just not want to risk their saying no? If it'd the latter, I'd seriously consider switching doctors because I know many GPs would see their patients for things like this. Whenever I have a health concern, whether big or small, my GP's office -- a group of MDs and PAs and a NP -- can always squeeze me in within a day or two if not that day. Your concern is valid, and even if it's "nothing," it'd good to get a professional's opinion.

My only other question is if you've started flossing again recently? If so, starting to do so can aggravate gums until the body adjusts.
posted by smorgasbord at 6:54 PM on December 1, 2014

With the caveat that I know basically nothing about teeth/dentistry, I would definitely give your dentist's office a call and describe the problem. Generally, dentists' offices have someone on call 24 hours a day; even if your dentist doesn't, s/he probably has someone covering for her/him. If you talk to someone at the office - maybe a receptionist, maybe a hygienist, maybe the dentist - they should be able to tell you whether you need to seek urgent care in the next day or two, or whether you can wait until your dentist returns.
posted by insectosaurus at 7:08 PM on December 1, 2014 [5 favorites]

Recently purchased a Waterpik but haven't used it yet, have heard it can work wonders, though, especially for gum pockets, irritated/receding gums, and so forth.

I have bad tartar and Plax seems to help it wear down and remove from my teeth over time.
posted by kup0 at 7:08 PM on December 1, 2014

Eeek! IANAD, but I Am A Person Who Has Undergone Enough Dental Treatment to Pay For a Fleet of Yachts. Here's the rub:

- As with any medical AskMe, anyone who is not a doctor (and hell, even doctors who aren't YOURS) should only recommend stuff that Can't Hurt, Might Help. My recs fall into this category.

- The vast majority of mouth issues short of "being punched point-blank in the kisser" can be temporarily soothed via two things: clove oil and orthodontic wax (or as I call it, brace-wax). Both of thse are TOPICAL TREATMENTS ONLY. Can't stress this enough: they go OVER the boo-boo; the former is a local analgesic, while the latter provides a physical barrier to reduce irritation and keep the affected tissue undisturbed.

- I'd use those, and I'd use your NSAID of choice to reduce general pain and inflammation... but I also wouldn't wait more than two or three days to see SOMEONE about it. Teeth don't grow back, and dental problems can affect the rest of your body, too.
posted by julthumbscrew at 7:12 PM on December 1, 2014

I've invented a concoction that works miracles for exactly this:

10ml of hydrogen peroxide 3%
10ml of water (diluting the hydrogen peroxide to 1.5%, which is safer and still effective)
3 drops of tea tree oil

Swish this around for 30-60 seconds after brushing and flossing (I use Flosspicks, which I find much more effective and much easier than normal floss or Piksters or whatever) thoroughly. The taste might be a bit much to begin with but it absolutely works magic for inflamed gums, and kills the shit out of everything in your mouth. Do this last thing before bed, and don't rinse with water afterwards. Result? You wake up and you don't even have morning breath!
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:23 PM on December 1, 2014 [8 favorites]

You have an infection. Go to the doctor and get antibiotics! If it's really infected badly the dentist probably won't touch it until that's under control anyway.
posted by fshgrl at 7:28 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have been partially reversing years of poor dental habits through the following items:

1) Sonicare. 1000x better than a regular toothbrush
2) Yellow menthol/alcohol Listerine-type (I use store brand, it's the same) mouthwash. Good anti-bacterial. Tastes like gasoline, but worth it.
3) ACT. It's got Fluoride, which teeth crave.

Add floss as desired. In fact, one of the revelations of adulthood was the recommendation that if you have a choice between flossing and brushing, floss.
posted by rhizome at 7:30 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

The more it hurts, the more you want to play with it, with your tongue, floss, finger, toothbrush, etc. Stop that!

A) Call your dentist and ask for the name of the person taking his patients who can't wait for him to return from vacation. Make an appt.

B) Chew on the other side for now.

C) Aside from gentle brushing, leave it alone for at least 24 hours. No poking, prodding, pushing down with floss, etc.

D) Rinse your mouth liberally and frequently with an antiseptic mouthwash and warm salt water.
posted by cecic at 8:02 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd stop using floss which could be aggravating the problem even further and if you must, use an interdental brush to work out anything wedged between your teeth instead, along with using lots of salt water rinses after you eat and drink until you can see a dentist.
posted by squeak at 9:34 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sounds like something I had last year. Ring dentist to make an emergency appointment, even if your dentist is away someone must be there to see you. Use corsodyl mouthwash, don't poke affected area, take a painkiller. Good luck.
posted by Mrs T at 9:42 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

What can I do to stop the pain and prevent the infection from eating my gum away more?

Get an OTC painkiller and emergency dental treatment and a prescription for antibiotics. 2nding not touching the area with pressurized water or floss, and swishing gently with salt water instead.
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:56 PM on December 1, 2014

What you can do right now, before you've gone out and got something better: strong saltwater rinses. Make them warm and as salty as you can stand, squerkle the salt water back and forth through the gap between your teeth using your tongue and your cheeks, and spit and repeat several times.

As well as physically washing stuff out, a strong salt rinse makes life harder for bacteria and easier for your inflamed and swollen gums by removing water from both by osmosis.
posted by flabdablet at 12:14 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

This happens to me and I'm a dental tragedy veteran and here's what I would do: I would swish warm lightly salted water around in my mouth two to three times a day. I would keep flossing. I would consider my menstrual cycle, because that shit is always particularly awful during my period -- there's a whole hormonal thing to teeth. There's an old saying, 'for every child, a tooth'--awesome! Like women don't get enough of a great deal. But skip the 19th century terrors and just swish with warm salty water and continue to floss.

Last week I started treatment for hypothyroidism and between feeling both exhausted and depressed

Someone with better medical knowledge can comment on this but I can say with authority that any hormonal wackiness in my life has repercussions when I go to the dentist. If I have my period, I bleed through the entire cleaning. If I don't, I don't.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:51 PM on December 2, 2014

Response by poster: Good news: called dentist, dentist called me back, told me to start swishing hydrogen peroxide around the wound and see if it got better, and hot damn, it did. Then my GP also got back to me and said that it's a good thing I asked about the teeth stuff because while taking my thyroid medicine dental issues are likely, but dental work has the potential to be dangerous. What fun for someone who absolutely needs to see her dentist next week! Sigh. I will keep the salt rinse in mind in case more stuff pops up, though. Thanks you guys.
posted by Hermione Granger at 11:02 PM on December 3, 2014

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