Gingivitis is a gum disease caused by bacteria in the mouth. Poor oral hygiene, plaque, and tartar can lead to an excess of bacteria collecting along the gum line. Given time, bacteria will begin to damage teeth. As the bacteria spread, the gums often become inflamed and irritated. Inflammation of the gums can cause pockets to form below the gum line where particles of food and bacteria can collect, further aggravating the condition. Gingivitis is considered an early warning sign of more serious oral health problems like periodontitis. It’s important to treat gingivitis immediately to prevent possible tooth loss in the future.
What Are the Indicators of Gum Disease?
Gingivitis may not always present obvious symptoms. Regular dental checkups can help spot indications of gum disease before it becomes a serious concern. Healthy gums should be pink-colored, and there should be no swelling where the gums attach to the teeth. If you begin to experience any of the following symptoms, speak with your dentist immediately:
- Bleeding gums when brushing or flossing
- Halitosis (chronic bad breath)
- A receding gum line
- Gums that are a bright red color
- Gums that are overly sensitive
- Gaps forming between teeth and gums
- Swollen gum tissues
- Pain when eating
The Effects of Gum Disease on Your Health
The effects of gingivitis extend beyond simply impacting oral health. Inflammation caused by gum disease is linked to the complications with heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and many other problems. There is evidence to suggest that the bacteria that causes gingivitis can affect the risks of cognitive issues like Alzheimer’s disease later in life. There is also a connection between gingivitis and premature birth, pregnancy tumors, and hormonal changes in women.
Gum Disease Treatment Options
It’s possible to reverse the symptoms of gingivitis if the disease is caught early enough. Dentists can treat gum disease in many different ways depending on the scope of the problem. Treatment options for gingivitis include:
Scaling and Root Planing: This treatment involves an intensive cleaning of the teeth. Scaling eliminates tartar or plaque just beneath the gum line. Root planing smooths out the surface of the roots of teeth. Root planing and scaling are among the best treatments for dealing with gum disease.
Gum Surgery: For severe cases of gingivitis, surgery is an effective treatment option. The most common type of surgery for addressing gum disease is gingival flap surgery. During this procedure, the gums are folded back to expose and allow easy removal of bacteria deposits near the roots of teeth. In some cases, your dentist may need to use a bone or tissue graft to repair more extensive damage.
Antibiotics: Your dentist may recommend a course of antibiotics to help stop oral bacteria from continuing to spread. Antibiotics are often used in combination with other treatment methods. Systemic or topical antibiotics are prescribed depending on the situation.
Maintenance Cleanings: One of the best ways to treat gingivitis is to keep up with regularly scheduled maintenance cleanings. By consistently removing tartar and plaque every three months, you can stop most gum disease symptoms from progressing further.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Gingivitis
Various factors like age, smoking, and genetics can increase your chances of developing gingivitis. A lack of nutrition plays a role in developing gum disease as well. Pre-existing conditions like bruxism (grinding of teeth) can also increase your susceptibility to developing gingivitis. Following a healthy diet and keeping up with daily oral hygiene practices are the best methods of prevention. It’s equally important to monitor the progress of your oral health with periodic dental checkups.
Maintaining Optimal Gum Health
Gingivitis can lead to a variety of complications that can impact your quality of life. By taking steps to prevent gum disease today, you can alleviate many oral health issues later in life. Brushing every day, eating healthy, and quitting habits like smoking or drinking play a fundamental role in fortifying your gums against disease. Speak with your dentist to gain further insights on how to protect your gums from gingivitis.