Most of us are familiar with cavities – at least 90% of the population has had one. Similarly, gingivitis and gum inflammation is an oral ailment seen frequently in adults. But while most people know that brushing your teeth and avoiding sugar keeps teeth from rotting, how to treat gingivitis and gum disease is more of a mystery.
Learning what gingivitis is and what the symptoms are will help you to know how to both treat it, and prevent it. When you prevent gum disease, you prevent much more serious health problems from arising in the future.
Gingivitis & Periodontitis
Gingivitis is usually caused by plaque building up in your mouth. The bacteria in plaque inflame the gums, making them red and swollen.
Periodontitis, or gum disease, is the end result of untreated gingivitis. This serious disease causes the gums and bone to move away from your teeth, leaving pockets around the teeth that can become infected and start to break down the bone. This eventually leads to tooth loss, since the bone can no longer hold the tooth in place.
Periodontitis is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults, and in most cases, it’s entirely preventable – treating gingivitis and taking the right steps to preventing it will save you a lot of pain and expense in the future.
Plaque & Other Causes of Gingivitis
Plaque is the sticky substance you brush off your teeth every morning and night – if you don’t remove plaque regularly by brushing, flossing, and seeing a dentist every six months, the bacteria in plaque infects and inflames your gums.
A few other conditions that can make you susceptible to gum disease include:
- Diseases that compromise your immune system
- Changes in hormones (e.g. during pregnancy or puberty)
- Medications that cause dry mouth
- Unhygienic braces, retainers, bridges, or dentures
The Symptoms of Gingivitis
If you have gingivitis, your gums will appear red, be inflamed, and feel sensitive. They might also bleed easily, especially right after brushing or flossing. There will be a noticeable difference from your normally healthy pink gums; they may appear swollen red or purple.
If you have not flossed your teeth in a while, the first time you floss your gums might be bloody and sensitive. However, if this sensitivity doesn’t decrease even after you’ve established a healthy habit of brushing and flossing, and if your gums are tender when touched or otherwise, you most likely have gingivitis.
Preventing Gingivitis & Gum Disease
The best way to prevent gingivitis is to stop plaque from building on your teeth. Brush and floss your teeth regularly, and see a dentist at least every six months so he or she can thoroughly clean your teeth and remove tartar, the fossilized plaque that often sticks to your teeth. Maintaining good oral hygiene is the best preventative measure – and it keeps your smile bright and happy as well!
A few other tricks to keep gingivitis out of your mouth include:
- Using a soft bristled toothbrush – many toothbrushes have stiff bristles that can cause your gums to recede, making it that much easier for plaque to creep in.
- Knowing if you have a family history of gum disease – make an extra effort to brush your teeth thoroughly and see a dentist frequently.
- Be aware of any pre-existing conditions that can contribute to gum disease – take extra preventative measures if you are pregnant or diabetic, be hyperaware of your gums, and see a dentist at the first sign of trouble.
- Drink water frequently – especially if you’re taking medications that cause dry mouth.
- If you have dental appliances in your mouth – whether removable (dentures, retainers) or not (braces), keep them as clean as possible.
- Avoid sugary snacks and drinks – to prevent plaque from building.
If you suspect you have gingivitis, see a dentist right away so he or she can remove the plaque and tartar that is causing the inflammation in the first place. Your dentist will examine your gums for signs of inflammation, perform a thorough cleaning, and give you instructions on how to continue in the care of your gums after leaving. Schedule an appointment with Forest Lawn Dental Centre to get back on the road to good oral health as soon as possible.