Do your gums bleed after brushing your teeth? Chances are, you could already be suffering from gingivitis.
In Australia, 1 in 5 adults suffers from gum disease. And according to the American Dental Association, gum diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis are major causes of tooth loss in adults.
This article will discuss everything you need to know about gingivitis: the causes, symptoms, treatment and what you can do to prevent it.
What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis is a mild but common form of gum disease that causes swelling (inflammation), redness and irritation of the gums around the base of your teeth.
Plaque builds up if you don’t brush your teeth regularly. It bonds with the bacteria that are naturally present in your mouth. The combination of plaque and bacteria produces toxins that irritate your gums.
The toxins can cause your gums to become red and tender (inflamed). The inflammation makes your gums bleed easily even with gentle brushing.
You must treat gingivitis immediately to prevent its progression to periodontitis, a much more serious gum disease that leads to tooth loss in adults.
Keep in mind that healthy gums are normally pale pink and are firm to the touch. Many people don’t realise they may already have some form of gum disease since they don’t see any signs or symptoms.
Here are some of the signs you should look out for:
- soft, swollen gums
- gums that are bright red, dusky red or purple-red
- tender gums that may be painful to the touch
- bleeding gums, even with gentle brushing
- bad breath that doesn’t go away after you brush your teeth
- a change in how your teeth fit together when you bite
- gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- partial dentures that no longer fit
- sensitive teeth
- pus between teeth and gums
Poor oral hygiene is the most common cause of inflamed gums or gingivitis. A poor oral health habit can promote the buildup of plaque and tartar that leads to gum diseases.
- Plaque is a sticky, invisible film of bacteria that builds up if you don’t brush your teeth every day. It forms on your teeth when bacteria, which are normally found in your mouth, interacts with the sugars and starches from the food you eat.
You need to remove plaque almost every day since it re-forms quickly.
- When plaque is not removed, it can harden under the gum line, turning into tartar and causing irritation.
Tartar buildup shields or protects the bacteria that are on your teeth. This protective shield also makes plaque more difficult to remove and so you’ll need professional cleaning from a dentist.
- The longer the bacteria, plaque and tartar stay on your teeth the more they irritate the gum tissues, thus causing inflammation. Also, your gums may bleed easily and become swollen.
If not treated, gingivitis can lead to tooth decay (dental caries), periodontitis and tooth loss.
- Poor oral care habits
- Tobacco smoking or chewing
- Poor nutrition, including vitamin C deficiency
- Genetic factors
- Ill-fitting dental appliances
- Crooked teeth
- Dry mouth
- Old age
Other causes of gum diseases
- Fungal and viral infections.
- Conditions that weaken one’s immunity such as cancer, HIV/AIDS or leukemia treatment.
- Consuming medications and treatment such as calcium channel blockers, steroids, oral contraceptives, chemotherapy and anticonvulsants.
- Hormonal changes, such as those related to the use of birth control pills, menstrual cycle or pregnancy.
- Certain drugs such as the ones used for angina, high blood pressure and epileptic seizures.
You can prevent implications if you seek treatment and follow your dentist’s instructions on good oral hygiene.
Without treatment, the inflammation may spread and affect the underlying tissue and bone. This condition is known as periodontitis.
- Plaques spreading below the gum line carry toxins. Too much toxin can break down the tissue and bone that support your teeth. As a result, the gums will recede or pull away from the teeth, creating hollow spaces or pockets that are susceptible to bacterial infection.
- Periodontitis can cause your teeth to become loose and may require removal. Also, it has been found that it can increase the risk of a stroke or a heart attack.
A gingivitis treatment consists of the following:
- Antibiotic medications
- Deep cleaning
- Antiseptic mouthwash containing chlorhexidine is an excellent mouth disinfectant.
- Oral antibiotics are used in treating persistent areas of inflamed gums.
- Doxycycline is another antibiotic used to stop enzymes from damaging the teeth.
- Antibiotic microspheres are inserted into pockets to stop the bacterial infection. They are best applied after root planing and scaling.
- Scaling is the process of removing tartar from below and above the gum line.
- Root planing is the removal of plaque and tartar as well as rough spots from the root surface.
- Lasers used for tartar removal provide less pain and bleeding than root planing and scaling.
- Flap surgery or pocket reduction is the process of exposing the roots by lifting back the gum tissue. This process makes root planing and scaling more effective.
- Soft tissue grafts is a type of surgery that helps reinforce soft tissues that were lost when gums have pulled away from the teeth.
- Dental Bone Grafting is required when the bones around the tooth are destroyed. This type of surgery helps by holding the tooth in place thus preventing tooth loss. Moreover, bone grafting promotes bone growth.
- Guided tissue regeneration is a type of surgery that uses a biocompatible fabric that is positioned between the tooth and bone. This process prevents the growth of unwanted tissues so that the bone, that supports the tooth, can grow back.
- Enamel matrix derivative application is another form of Guided Tissue Regeneration in which a gel is applied to a diseased tooth root. This process promotes healthy bone and tissue growth since the gels contain the same natural proteins found in growing tooth enamel.
The Takeaway on Gingivitis Prevention
You can reverse gingivitis and ultimately prevent it from coming back by following the instructions from a Family-Friendly Dentist.
Good oral health habits such as brushing and flossing can help to reverse and prevent gingivitis. Be sure to brush your teeth twice every day, preferably every morning and before bedtime. Also, try to use fluoride toothpaste.