Gingivitis is a common gum disease indicated by inflammation of the gingiva, the area of the gum around the base of the teeth. It is the early stage of periodontal disease which affects 47.2% of adults aged 30 or older and 70.1% of Americans who are 65 or older[i]. While the risk of developing gingivitis does increase with age, it is important to understand that the condition can affect anyone. Gingivitis is a treatable gum disease, but when left untreated, the condition can develop into periodontal disease and cause many unpleasant complications to develop. This calls for recognition of the symptoms, an understanding of the possible causes, and early detection to ensure gingivitis can be appropriately treated to avoid such complications. Here, we will explore gingivitis in more details and provide you with a complete overview of all the most important facts you need to understand about this gum disease.
What causes gingivitis?
The gums attach to the teeth at a lower point, not at gum edges that we see when we look in the mirror. As a result, there is a small space, sulcus, where plaque and food get trapped. Poor oral hygiene, plaque, and food cause inflammation and gingivitis, which is an early stage of a much bigger problem called periodontal disease.
Basically, the direct cause of gingivitis is plaque which is a soft, sticky, and colorless film of bacteria that forms on gums and teeth constantly. That’s why gingivitis is considered a bacterial infection. Lack of regular oral hygiene habits makes plaque produce toxins that irritate soft tissues i.e. your gums and triggers an immune response. This leads to the destruction of gingival tissue, but could also create more severe complications.
Speaking of plaque, it is important to mention that bacteria in this film protects oral cavity from colonization of potentially dangerous microorganisms. The problem occurs when a person doesn’t brush or floss teeth regularly and plaque accumulates.
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Types of gingivitis
Not all cases of gingivitis are equal, they fall into two main categories based on their potential causes. They are:
Dental plaque-induced gingival disease – this type of gingivitis involves some medications, hormonal imbalances, malnutrition or nutritional deficiencies[ii]
Non-plaque induced gingival lesions – caused by specific fungi, bacteria, or viruses. Systemic conditions such as illnesses and allergies can also contribute to gingivitis just like wounds, genetics, and reactions to dentures or other foreign bodies
Who is at risk of gingivitis?
The reality is that everyone can develop gingivitis, but some people are more likely to have it than others. Knowing risk factors[iii] of this gum disease is a great way to prevent it, so here they are:
- Individuals who does not practice proper oral hygiene, which means they fail to brush their teeth twice a day, as well as fail to floss and rinse regularly.
- Smoking and/or chewing tobacco
- There are certain genetic factors that also seems to play a part in a person’s risk of developing gingivitis.
- Frequently experiencing dry mouth may also cause a significantly higher risk of gingivitis.
- Older age
- Dental restorations that don’t fit properly
- Having crooked teeth that are difficult to clean
- Imbalanced nutrition that doesn’t supply the body with important nutrients such as vitamin C
- Diseases such as diabetes, leukemia, HIV/AIDS
- Cancer treatment
What are the symptoms of gingivitis?
In order to recognize gingivitis, you need to know how healthy gums look like. They fit tightly around your teeth and are pale pink in color. If your gums aren’t firm and their color isn’t pale pink, it’s a sign of some problem including gingivitis. Signs and symptoms[iv] of this gum disease are:
- Your gums may become swollen and red. They are also usually tender to the touch.
- When you floss your teeth or brush your teeth, bleeding may occur.
- Many people report experiencing a painful sensation when they are chewing on food.
- As the gums start to recede away from the teeth, you may find that your teeth start to feel loose.
- Tooth sensitivity is also a very common symptoms of gingivitis that many people experience.
- Formation of pus between gums and teeth
- Receding gums i.e. gums pulled away from the teeth
- You may notice that your breath constantly smells bad, even shortly after you have brushed your teeth. Many people also experience the presence of a bad taste in their mouths when they are affected by gingivitis.
- Pain when touching your gums
- Change in how your teeth fit together when you bite
- Change in how your dentures fit
If you recognize these symptoms when you look or feel your gums, eat food, or brush teeth the best thing to do is to schedule an appointment to see your dentist.
Diagnosis and treatment of gingivitis
Your dentist reviews dental and medical history to determine whether you have a health problem that could contribute to gum disease. Then, he or she performs a dental exam that involves probing your gums with a small ruler to check for inflammation. At the same time, probing can serve to measure pockets around teeth. Pockets that are deeper than 4mm indicate the existence of gum disease. The dentist may recommend X-ray to check for bone loss.
Gingivitis is a manageable problem, but ignoring it could lead to periodontal disease. Your dentist will recommend the best approach to tackle gingivitis. Common treatment options include professional dental cleaning, dental restoration if necessary, and antibiotics. The choice of the treatment depends on the severity of gum disease.
Besides professional treatments, your dentist will also advise you to be mindful regarding food you eat and to take care of your teeth through regular oral hygiene.
Prevention of gingivitis
Even though gingivitis is extremely common in modern-day societies, there are certain techniques that can be used to effectively prevent the gum disease from developing. Some of the best techniques that you can use to prevent gingivitis include:
- Always start by flossing your teeth to ensure plague buildup between tooth and other harder to reach areas are effectively removed.
- After flossing, brush your teeth. Be sure not to use the same toothbrush for too long. Practicing the right types of brushing techniques is also important in ensuring you get rid of remaining plaque and pathogens.
- The final step to an effective daily oral routine is to use a mouthwash. The mouthwash can kill any remaining bacteria and may also help to prevent the buildup of plaque on your teeth.
- Repeat the routine we have described above two times every single day. Once you get up in the morning and then again before you go to bed.
- Make an appointment with your dentist for a general check-up frequently. Most studies and experts recommend a checkup on your tooth at least once every six months.
- If symptoms associated with gingivitis become present, immediately make an appointment with your dentist. This can help target the disease early on and lead to more successful results during the initial treatment phase.
- Avoid smoking, chewing tobacco, and other tobacco-related products and forms. These items will not only cause your teeth to become stained, but can also cause inflammation in the gums, as well as other potential complications.
- Eat a well-balanced diet to supply your teeth and gums[v] much-needed nutrients that keep them strong
- Manage blood sugar
- Be proactive and manage any underlying condition that contributed to your gum disease
Gingivitis is a type of gum disease that can transition into a more serious condition when it is not treated appropriately and at an early stage. The condition is not considered dangerous to the affected patient, but the symptoms and complications of gingivitis may have an adverse effect on certain elements that affect a patient’s quality of life. With a proper oral hygiene routine, gingivitis can be effectively prevented; thus also reducing the risk of ever being diagnosed with periodontal disease. There are many steps to proper oral hygiene, including flossing, brushing, rinsing and, of course, obtaining regular checkups from your local dentist. In addition to assisting with the prevention of gingivitis, a healthy oral hygiene routine can also help provide an effective management skill set for a patient diagnosed with the condition.
[i] Periodontal disease, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/oralhealth/periodontal_disease/index.htm
[ii] Types of gingivitis, Trusted Health Products https://www.trustedhealthproducts.com/blog/oral-care/types-of-gingivitis
[iii] Gingivitis, Mayo Clinic https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gingivitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354453
[iv] Gum disease (gingivitis), Healthline https://www.healthline.com/health/gingivitis
[v] What is gingivitis? Signs and symptoms, Colgate https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/conditions/gum-disease/what-is-gingivitis-signs-and-symptoms