You might not even know you have it. It results from poor oral hygiene. In its earliest stages, it results in gums that are bleeding and inflamed.
It is called gingivitis and it is a mild form of gum disease. It can be mild in the beginning, but can lead to much more serious oral and overall health complications.
What Is Gingivitis?
In the early stage of gingivitis, bacteria builds up, causing the gums to become swollen and to easily bleed while brushing your teeth. Although the gums may be irritated, the teeth are still firmly planted in their sockets. No irreversible bone or other tissue damage has occurred at this stage.
Gingivitis occurs when plaque is allowed to build up on your teeth. Plaque is a sticky material made of bacteria, mucus, and food that develops on the exposed parts of the teeth and leads to tooth decay. If you don’t remove the plaque, it turns into a hard substance called tartar that becomes trapped at the base of the tooth.
However, if left untreated, gingivitis can turn into a more serious condition called periodontitis in which the inner layer of the gums and bone pull away from the teeth, causing pockets. These pockets soon become filled with bacteria and plaque and eventually break down the bone holding the teeth in place. As the disease increases, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed, contributing to tooth loss.
What Are The Signs of Gingivitis?
Many people are not even aware they have gingivitis. However, it is essential this gum disease be caught early. Symptoms include:
- Swollen gums
- Gums that bleed
- Receding gums
- Bad breath or bad taste in your mouth
- Deep pockets between the teeth and gums
- Gums changing in color from pink to dusky red
- Loose teeth
- Uncontrolled diabetes
What Causes Gingivitis?
- Poor oral hygiene. Not brushing, flossing and using mouthwash daily contributes to gingivitis.
- Pregnancy and hormonal changes. Pregnancy, menopause, puberty or even your period can lead to hormonal changes causing gingivitis.
- Medications which restrict saliva flow can lead to gingivitis. Some drugs, such as the anticonvulsant medication Dilantin and the anti-angina drug Procardia and Adalat, can cause abnormal growth of gum tissue.
- Smoking can make you more prone to gingivitis.
How Is Gingivitis Treated?
When caught early, gingivitis can be easily controlled by having your teeth cleaned twice a year, so a dental hygienist can get rid of all the plaque, bacteria and tartar that you can’t see.It is not usually possible to remove tartar by yourself. It can only be effectively removed by a dentist or dental hygienist using a technique called scaling, scale, or polish – the tartar is scraped away using a special instrument. If there are any marks or stains the teeth are then polished.
Follow this up with brushing, flossing, and antibacterial mouthwash regularly to prevent any form of gum disease. Fortunately, gingivitis can be reversed through good oral health methods. Additionally, repair of misaligned teeth or replacement of dental and orthodontic appliances may be recommended.
However, despite best efforts, you may be genetically predisposed to gum disease. In fact, the American Academy of Periodontology says that up to 30% of Americans may be genetically susceptible to gum disease. Tell your dentist so that more frequent cleanings, checkups and treatments can be administered.
Why Treating Gingivitis Early Is So Important
According to the Center for Disease Control, gum disease may be related to serious health complications including irritable bowel syndrome, stroke and heart disease.
Don’t let gingivitis progress into periodontitis. Schedule an appointment at South Florida Dental Care while you still have a chance to reverse the condition. Too afraid to see a dentist? Ask about our sedation dentistry!
About The Author
Dr. Jeffrey Pass, DDS, has been in private practice since 1987 and emphasizes cosmetic, restorative, and implant dentistry. A graduate of NYU College of Dentistry, Dr. Pass practiced privately in Manhattan, NY prior to establishing South Florida Dental Care in 1993. He regularly attends continuing education classes and is a member of the American Dental Association, South Florida District Dental Association, South Broward Dental Society, and the Florida branch of The Seattle Study Club.