What is Gingivitis?

Updated August 19, 2016

Gingivitis, what does that word even mean? Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. It can occur to anyone and especially in those individuals that have poor oral hygiene.

We’ve all heard warnings about gingivitis, but how many of us really know what it is? When you brush and floss carefully, you might ignore finding out information like this because you don’t think you have to worry about it. However, it’s always a good idea to stay informed of dental issues that could arise in the future.


The ugly truth about gingivitis

Nobody wants to hear that they have gingivitis, and in fact some people may have it and don’t even know it. Gingivitis comes in two forms. You have dental plaque-induced and non-plaque induced. Both cause the gums to swell, redden, and puff up. This inflammation of the gums can be caused by plaque buildup, malnutrition, medications, a virus, bacteria, and much more. If you have gingivitis and do not properly treat it, it can lead to much bigger problems such as tooth loss. The longer you have it, the more painful it can become when you brush your teeth.

More often than not, gingivitis can be caused due to improperly caring for your teeth. However, there are other factors that can come into play. Just like many diseases, if you have a history of gum disease in your family, then you are more prone to developing gingivitis. Your lifestyle habits such as smoking will also play a role in your oral hygiene. If you are battling another disease such as diabetes, you can also be more susceptible to gingivitis.

Causes of Gingivitis

The cause of gingivitis is due to plaque build-up. When you eat a sugary food or drink, the normal bacteria that live in your mouth can and will attach to your tooth enamel where the sugar has adhered. The bacteria feed on the sugar and together, the combination makes plaque and acid which eats away at your tooth enamel until it forms a cavity. You may not realize you have a cavity until it becomes so deep and profound that the hole hits the nerves in your teeth and cause throbbing and toothache type pain.

Risk Factors

Gingivitis is a relatively common periodontal disease that can occur in children, adults, and the elderly. There are certain factors that can increase your risk of acquiring gingivitis such as tobacco use, dry mouth, diabetes, old age, certain medications, poor oral health, weak immune system, viral and fungal infections, poor nutrition, improper dentures, and hormonal changes.
Unfortunately, gingivitis that is left untreated can cause complications that involve the bony structures of your mouth. When this occurs, it is called periodontitis. This disease can be associated with other overall health issues such as heart disease (heart attack & stroke), lung disease, and premature birth in pregnant women.

Symptoms of Gingivitis

The symptoms of gingivitis can be many. It can consist of one reoccurring symptom, or you can notice multiple symptoms that all lead to the diagnosis of gingivitis. A person with no signs of gingivitis has a healthy and firm gum line. You need to be concerned when you have a gum line that is puffy and bleeds easily. Normal gums are pink; gums with gingivitis are red in color. Some of the other telltale signs of gingivitis include swollen, soft, puffy, tender, and receding gums. You will notice a change from pink gums to a red color. You will also notice your gums may bleed when you brush or floss your teeth, and you could see a pink or red tinge on your toothbrush or dental floss string after performing these tasks.

Take care at home

If you want to protect yourself from getting this disease, then the best thing you can do is follow daily oral health practices such as brushing in the morning and night, or after every meal. You should also floss at least once a day to protect your gums. Talk to your dentist about whether you should purchase an electric toothbrush or if a manual toothbrush will do a good job. You can also use an antiseptic mouthwash for extra protection.

Excellent steps to reverse gingivitis include brushing your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush twice a day and after meals and replacing it every three to four months or sooner if it starts to wear and become frayed. Continuing to use a worn out toothbrush does not help to prevent or reverse gingivitis because the frayed bristles do not cover the surface area of the tooth enamel and the tooth retains the plaque on it even after brushing.

Other remedies you can perform by visiting a dentist, to protect your gums from gingivitis, are to fix any fillings or crowns that do not fit properly that make oral hygiene more difficult to perform on a daily basis. If you have teeth that are not aligned correctly, teeth that rub, crowns that fit incorrectly, or any other dental problems that may irritate your gums, seek care with a dentist immediately. Your dentist will most likely recommend you have these issues corrected to make it easier for you to perform good oral hygiene daily at home and prevent gingivitis from occurring in the first place.

Visit your dentist

Of course, the best way to combat gingivitis is to visit your dentist for routine check-ups. No matter how hard you try to remove plaque at home, you just aren’t going to have the same results as a professional. They will be able to guide you in the right direction when it comes to your oral health, and can offer you insight as to the best products to use when you are at home.

Gingivitis is a very serious disease and should be taken as such. It has been linked to other health issues like lung and cardiovascular diseases. It can also cause abscesses and infections in and around our mouth. The health of our gums is important to our whole well-being. By paying attention to our gums and teeth, and taking active steps to have regular check-ups with the dentist, we can help improve our overall health and have a pearly white smile.

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