We’ve all heard of it and many of us have been told we have it, but how much do we really know about gingivitis? It’s a gum disease, but what else is there to it? Here are some of the common questions about gingivitis answered.
What is it?
Gingivitis is a form of periodontal disease characterized by inflammation of the gums. This inflammation and infection can destroy the supporting tissues to the upper teeth, such as tooth sockets, gums, and periodontal ligaments.
What are the causes?
Gingivitis is most commonly caused by plaque deposits that have been resting on the surfaces of teeth for a prolonged amount of time. If plaque is not removed, it turns into a hard deposit called tartar and can become trapped at the base of the tooth. This irritates gums and sparks the production of toxins and bacteria, thus infecting the gums, making them swollen and tender. Gingivitis may also be caused by gum injuries such as harsh brushing or flossing. If you have dental issues such as misaligned teeth, ill fitting or unclean mouth appliances, or fillings with rough edges, you may also be more prone to gingivitis as these problems can irritate gums.
Your susceptibility to gingivitis may also depend on other contributing factors. For example, poor dental hygiene, uncontrolled diabetes, pregnancy, or illness in general can often increase your risk of gum disease.
How do I know if I have it?
- Bleeding and swollen gums
- Mouth sores
- Gums appear bright red or reddish purple
- Gums appear shiny
- Gums feel tender when touched
If you think you have gingivitis, you should make an appointment to see your dentist. To determine if you have the disease, the dentist will simply examine your mouth for the symptoms. He may take an x-ray or bone measurement to determine if the inflammation has spread to the teeth’s supporting structures.
What is the treatment?
There is no special treatment for gingivitis. The main goal, once diagnosed, is to reduce the inflammation and swelling. To do this, your teeth and gums will first be professionally cleaned by the dentist or hygienist. Afterward, the dentist will walk you through the proper steps for further treatment, which will include effective brushing and flossing. If the cause of your gingivitis is due to a dental problem, the dentist may recommend the proper procedure to repair the problem.
Tenderness should reduce within a few weeks of the professional cleaning if you continue to take proper care of your oral hygiene. In the mean time, over-the-counter anti-inflammatories are available that can help to ease any discomfort you are experiencing, and warm salt water or an antibacterial mouthwash can reduce the puffiness of your gums.
Healthy gums are pink and firm. If your gums are still tender and swollen after a few weeks of treatment, you may have acquired another infection. Possible complications include recurrence of gingivitis, periodontitis, trench mouth, or an infection of the gingiva or jaw bone. Contact your dentist if you experience any of these problems.
How can I prevent gingivitis?
Gingivitis can be painful, but fortunately it is easily avoidable. Gingivitis is prevented the same way it is treated—through proper oral hygiene.
So what does proper oral hygiene look like? For starters, you should brush at least two times a day. Your dentist may recommend more frequent brushing if you are particularly prone to gum disease. You should also gently floss at least once a day. In addition, be sure to see your dentist once every six months for professional cleanings, as taking care of your teeth is the first step to having healthy gums.