Gingivitis involves the inflammation of the gums, which are also known as gingiva. It’s a common complaint which is caused by a film of plaque, or bacteria, which accumulates on the teeth.
While considered non-destructive, left untreated gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, or full blown gum disease which is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
Signs and symptoms
In mild cases of gingivitis, there may be no discomfort or noticeable symptoms. However, for in more advanced cases there are specific signs and symptoms to look out for. These include:
- Bright red or purple gums
- Tender gums that may be painful to the touch
- Inflammation, or swollen gums
- Receding gums
- Soft gums
- Bleeding from the gums when brushing or flossing
- Halitosis or bad breath
There are two main categories of gingival diseases:
- Dental plaque-induced gingival disease: This results from a build-up of plaque, systemic factors, medications, or malnutrition.
- Non-plaque induced gingival lesions: This results from a specific bacterium, virus, or fungus. It might also be caused by genetic factors, systemic conditions (including allergic reactions and certain illnesses), wounds, or reactions to foreign bodies, such as dentures.
What is the best treatment for Gingivitis?
Gingivitis can be successfully reversed with an early diagnosis and with prompt and professional treatment, which is why we always urge patients to seek at the earliest opportunity.
The first step is likely to involve the removal of plaque and tartar build up, known as scaling, followed by tuition on effective brushing and flossing techniques. Certain dental issues, such as crooked teeth, badly fitted crowns or bridges, may make it harder to properly remove plaque and tartar and follow-up appointments may be recommended, with more frequent cleanings if necessary.
Patients can also do a great deal to treat and manage Gingivitis at home. Here are some simple guidelines to follow to ensure high standards of oral hygiene:
- Brush teeth at least twice a day
- Use an electric toothbrush
- Floss teeth at least once a day
- Regularly rinse mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash
How to identify more severe Periodontitis (Gum Disease)
Gingivitis usually precedes periodontitis, which is more generally referred to as gum disease. However, this is not always the case. For patients experiencing symptoms of gingivitis, if their teeth remain firmly planted in their sockets, it is highly likely that no irreversible bone or tissue damage has occurred.
However, left untreated it can quickly advance to periodontitis. A clear indication of this involves the inner layer of the gum and bone pulling away from the teeth to form pockets which collect debris and become infected.
As the plaque spreads below the gum line the body’s immune system is triggered and begins to fight the bacteria. Bacteria within the plaque release toxins and poison which in combination with the
Enzymes released by the body to fight the infection start to gradually break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place.
This battle on the gum line causes pockets to further deepen exposing and destroying more gum tissue and bone. This can ultimately lead to tooth loss, as teeth are no longer anchored in place and become loose as the disease develops.
What else causes Periodontitis (Gum Disease)?
While genetics, poor oral hygiene and lifestyle choices such as smoking can all cause gum disease, there are several other factors which contribute to the onset of periodontitis. These include:
- Hormonal changes – Shifts in the hormonal balance brought on by pregnancy, puberty and menopause as well as monthly menstruation, can make gums more sensitive and susceptible to gingivitis.
- Illnesses– Diseases such as cancer and HIV which interfere with the immune system can affect the health of gums. Patients with diabetes are also at higher risk of developing infections, including periodontal disease and cavities, because of the body’s blood sugar imbalance.
- Medications – Certain medications which lessen the flow of saliva, which offers a protective seal for teeth and gums, can accelerate gingivitis. Other drugs can cause abnormal growth of gum tissue.
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