Gingivitis is a condition that causes inflammation of the gums, resulting in increased puffiness, swelling, and bleeding. While it can be reversed with proper oral care, if left untreated it can progress into a more serious case of periodontitis, or gum disease – which may result in tooth and bone loss as well as the permanent recession of your gums. Keep reading to find out how you can identify and prevent future cases of gingivitis to regain your perfect smile for good!
There are actually two primary categories of gingival (gum-related) diseases: dental plaque-induced and non-dental plaque-induced. Non-plaque-induced gingival conditions might result from a specific bacterial, fungal, or viral infection; the gum inflammation might be a side effect of another mouth injury or allergic reaction. However, in most cases of gingivitis, the accumulation of dental plaque is the culprit.
What Are Plaque-Induced Gingival Diseases?
Plaque-induced gingivitis is formed from the buildup of plaque, a naturally occurring biofilm (a collection of microorganisms that stick to each other and attach to a surface) comprised from the bacteria living inside your mouth. Plaque forms every day – you can identify it in the slightly fuzzy, grimy way your teeth feel when you’ve just woken up, before brushing them — but problems arise if you don’t regularly clean these deposits off your teeth through regular brushing and flossing.
The bacteria in plaque release toxins that irritate your gums, often resulting in pain and bleeding. When left to grow unchecked, they harden into a tough, crusty layer called tartar (or calculus), a yellowy substance that’s much harder to clean and can only be removed from teeth using specialized dental equipment. The longer that plaque and tartar remain on your teeth, the more inflammation will develop.
In its earliest stages, gingivitis might not be exceptionally painful – which is why it’s crucial to know what you should be looking out for. Some common gingivitis symptoms include the following:
How is Gingivitis Diagnosed?
Dentists typically identify gingivitis during an oral examination. One test uses a probe to measure the depth of the “pocket” between your gums and teeth – in a healthy mouth, this depth is typically less than 3 mm, and any depth greater than 3 mm may indicate recession caused by gum disease. If deeper pockets are found and/or your gingivitis is more advanced, dental X-rays might also be used to check for bone loss.
Untreated gingivitis can develop into full-blown gum disease, which spreads beyond the affected tooth to create abscesses in the surrounding tissue and bone – which, in turn, can permanently impact your ability to bite and chew. Chronic inflammation of the gums can also weaken your immune system as a whole, making you more vulnerable to all kinds of disease.
According to a 2012 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), almost half of all Americans over age 30 have periodontal (gum) disease, so there’s no need to be self-conscious about needing to seek treatment. On top of sustaining a balanced diet and keeping up with routine brushing, flossing, and dental checkups, being mindful of potential risk factors can also help minimize your likelihood of developing gum disease.
Am I At Risk for Getting Gingivitis?
Various factors can place you at greater risk for developing gingivitis, such as the following:
If you’re affected by any of the above risk factors, you might require more frequent dental attention. One of the most effective methods of gingivitis prevention is simply maintaining good oral health – that is, brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes each, flossing at least once daily, and keeping up your routine dental checkups. You might also consider incorporating antimicrobial mouthwash, which can help control the spread of bacteria, into your oral care routine. If you’re unsure what prevention options will work best for you, consult with your dentist!
One good thing about gingivitis is that it’s easily treatable with a thorough cleaning if you catch it promptly! During these periodontal deep cleanings – which are distinct from the routine cleanings you receive every six months – your dentist will strip away all traces of plaque and tartar in a technique called scaling and root planing. During this process, you might take local anesthetics while your dentist uses specialized tools to clean beneath the gumline before smoothing out the surface of the tooth root itself, preventing the adherence of bacteria. This effectively gives your gums a fresh start, allowing them to cleanly reattach themselves to your teeth again.
Your dentist might also perform “host modulation” treatment, which often involves the injection of medicine directly into the affected gums to reduce the chance of further infection. If necessary, dental restorations such as crowns and bridges can also correct existing damage caused by gum disease.
Your periodontal health can affect your entire body – so even if you only have a mild case of gingivitis, you shouldn’t let it slide! The state-of-the-art cleaning and treatment options available at Dentists of Whittier will have your gums feeling healthy, beautiful, and refreshed in no time.
We want to help you vanquish gingivitis before it gets the chance to develop into something more serious. Call us at (562) 414-5025 to schedule your next cleaning with Dentists of Whittier!
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