What is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is a relatively common and moderate type of gum disease (also referred to as periodontal disease) that can result in irritation, swelling, and redness of the gingiva. The gingiva is the gum area around the base of the teeth. Taking gingivitis seriously and seeking treatment right away is highly important, as gingivitis can lead to a more severe gum disease known as periodontitis and eventually tooth loss.
Gingivitis is most commonly caused by poor oral hygiene. A strong and consistent oral health practice, including brushing twice daily, flossing once daily, and seeing your dentist for routine dental checkups, will go a long way toward preventing (and potentially reversing) gingivitis.
What are the Symptoms of Gingivitis?
Gums that are healthy are typically firm and pale pink in colour and fit tightly around the teeth. Some of the signs and symptoms of gingivitis can include:
- Puffy or Swollen Looking Gums
- Bright or Dark Red Gums
- Gums that Bleed Easily When Brushing or Flossing
- Chronic Bad Breath
- Tender Gums
- Receding Gums
What Causes Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is most commonly the result of poor oral hygiene that allows plaque to form on the surface of the teeth. When plaque is allowed to form, inflammation of the surrounding gum tissues can become inflamed.
Plaque is a sticky, invisible film that is composed primarily of bacteria and forms on the teeth. Plaque forms when sugars and starches in the foods we eat interact with the bacteria that normally are found in the mouth. Plaque must be removed daily as it forms daily, and if left on the surface of the teeth can harden into tartar. When tartar develops near and under the gumline, bacteria accumulate and the tartar acts as a protective shield for the bacteria. Tartar also causes irritation along the gum line, which can lead to the development of gingivitis.
Professional dental cleaning is required to effectively remove tartar and clean the teeth. The more time that plaque and tartar are allowed to exist on the teeth, the more inflamed and irritated the gums will become. Over time, the gums will become swollen, and tender and may bleed easily. Tooth decay and cavities can also be the result of untreated plaque and tartar. Untreated gingivitis will eventually advance into periodontist, which can lead to tooth loss.
Risk Factors for Developing Gingivitis
While gingivitis is common and can develop in any individual, there are certain factors that increase the risk of developing gum disease. They include:
- Poor Oral Care Habits
- Chewing or Smoking Tobacco
- Chronic Dry Mouth
- Poor Nutrition and Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
- Poorly Fitted Dental Restorations
- Difficult to Clean Teeth
- Suppressed Immune System (often due to medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS, leukemia, cancer treatment, etc.)
- Specific Medications
- Hormonal Changes (often related to pregnancy, the menstrual cycle, or the use of birth control.)
- Viral or Fungal Infections
How is Gingivitis Treated?
In most cases, immediate treatment can reverse the symptoms of gingivitis and prevent it from progressing into more serious gum disease and potential tooth loss. Gingivitis is treated by a thorough professional cleaning by your dentist and then the adoption of a strong daily oral healthcare routine. If you smoke or chew tobacco, it is important to stop immediately to prevent the condition from worsening.
Gingivitis Prevention & When to See your Dentist
If you have noticed any symptoms of gingivitis, it is important to contact your dentist right away. The sooner you seek treatment, the better the odds that you will be able to reverse the damage from gingivitis and prevent it from progressing into more severe conditions.
The best prevention when it comes to gingivitis is to maintain a proper oral health routine. As mentioned above, this includes brushing twice daily for at least two minutes at a time, flossing once per day, and seeing your dentist every 6 months for a checkup and cleaning. If you are at a particularly high risk of developing gingivitis, you can brush more often, such as after every meal or snack, or as often as your dentist recommends. Annual x-rays can also help to identify gum disease that may not be visible during a visual examination by your dentist. Adopting good health and wellness practices can also help to maintain general health and the health of your teeth and gums. Limiting sugary foods and drinks, eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and drinking plenty of water are great places to start.
Learn more about how to prevent the development of gingivitis or schedule an appointment with our team by contacting our Guelph dentist’s office today!