We’ve all heard of Gingivitis, most likely on flashy television commercials proclaiming prevention and cures, or by receiving a warning from your dentist, but do you really know what Gingivitis is and how to prevent and treat it?
Gingivitis is a form of periodontal (gum) disease. It causes inflammation and infection in the tissues of your teeth and gums, as well as in the periodontal ligaments (which attach your teeth to bone) and the tooth sockets, which means bad news for your gums and teeth.
It’s the long-term effects of plaque deposits on your teeth that cause Gingivitis, which is why it’s so important to brush and floss daily. Plaque, a mixture of bacteria, mucus, and food debris, cultivates on the surface of your teeth, causing tooth decay. If plaque is not removed it turns into tartar (also called calculus) that gets trapped at the base of your teeth, causing swollen, tender, and infected gums. Left untreated, Gingivitis causes your gums to recede, spoiling that pretty smile of yours.
Brushing and flossing daily helps remove plaque before it turns into tartar, which, if left to its own devices, is more difficult to remove and can create a shield locking in bacteria. At this point, only your dentist can remove it, which is why it’s so important to maintain bi-yearly dental cleanings.
If left untreated, Gingivitis can turn into Periodontitis, (the progressive loss of the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth) which can lead to loosening teeth and subsequent tooth loss. By simply brushing and flossing daily, and seeing your dentist every six months, you can save yourself thousands of dollars in possible dental implant and denture costs, not to mention ensure the quality of your pearly whites.
Certain factors that increase your risk for Gingivitis:
- Bad oral health habits
- Misaligned teeth
- Ill-fitted dental restorations
- Poor nutrition
- Substance abuse
- Certain viral and fungal infections
- Older age – more common after age 35
- Certain medications such as antidepressants, heart medications, and others (talk to your Periodontist about whether or not your medications put you at risk)
- Smoking – we all know smoking is bad for your health, but did you know that over time it breaks down your gums and your jawbone?
- Decreased immunity from illnesses such as HIV/AIDS, leukemia, and other conditions
- Gender – women are more susceptible than men due to hormonal changes caused by monthly menstrual cycle, oral contraceptives, and pregnancy
Risks of Gingivitis
- Diabetes (both type 1 and 2)
- Heart disease
- Women with periodontitis have an increased risk of birthing premature babies, or babies with low birth weight versus women with healthy gums.
- Increased risk of heart attack, stroke and lung disease
- Painful, tender, and swollen gums
- Bleeding gums, especially when flossing and/or brushing
- Bright red to purple-pink gums (as opposed to healthy pink)
- Shiny gums
- Mouth sores
- Receding gums
- Puffy, soft gums
- Bad breath
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible, and follow up with regular cleanings. The moral of the story is: all you need to prevent Gingivitis is good dental hygiene – brushing at least twice a day and flossing at least once a day. Warm salt water and antibacterial rinses can also be used to help reduce gum swelling.