Gum disease is caused by the action of dental plaque bacteria. The toxins produced by bacteria cause initially the inflammation of the gums and, if not treated, the infection of periodontal tissues results in loss of bone and connective tissues that keep teeth in place and finally in tooth loss. The purpose of antimicrobial treatment is to decrease the amount of bacteria in the mouth that cause periodontal disease.
Antiseptics which are mainly used for prevention and mild gingivitis have bacteriostatic action. They suppress the metabolism of bacteria cells inhibiting or slowing down the growth of dental plaque. Antibiotics have bactericidal action; they work by killing bacteria. Antibiotic therapy is used for the treatment of advanced periodontitis.
However, antimicrobial therapy alone is not enough for eliminating dental plaque or treating gum disease. The preventive action of antiseptics is effective only if combined with daily oral hygiene. Antibiotics can not provide treatment of periodontal disease unless used in conjunction with tooth scaling and root planing and/or surgical gum disease treatments. They are also prescribed for acute types of periodontal disease such as aggressive juvenile periodontitis and acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG).