What is Gingivitis?
If that part of your gum around the base of your teeth (gingiva) is swollen, irritated or reddish, you have gingivitis. It's a less severe form of gum disease. But gingivitis should be treated immediately, as it can develop into periodontitis (chronic gum disease) and make you lose your teeth.
When your dental hygiene is poor, you may easily have gingivitis. This is why you need to brush and floss your teeth daily, eat a healthy diet and see your dentist for regular checkups. Good dental hygiene can stop gingivitis from happening.
What are the symptoms?
This disease affects the gums. While healthy gums fit snugly around the teeth and are firm and pale pink, a gingivitis-infected mouth has the following signs:
- Puffy or swollen gums
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Gums that are coloured dark red
- Bleeding gums while brushing or flossing
- Tender gums
- Receding gums
When to get medical help
Quickly contact your doctor when you begin to have symptoms of gingivitis. Early treatment will stop gingivitis from developing into periodontitis.
What are the causes?
Typically, gingivitis comes from poor dental care that allows plaque to build on the teeth and inflame the gums.
Plaque causes gingivitis in the following ways:
- It forms on the teeth: When mouth bacteria react with food sugars, they form a clear, bacteria-filled sticky film called plaque. Daily removal of plaque is critical as it rebuilds fast.
- It develops into tartar:The unremoved plaque will harden into tartar or calculus that accumulates bacteria. It becomes difficult to remove plaque as the tartar protects the bacteria, leading to irritation on the gumline. To remove tartar, you need professional dental cleaning.
- Gingivitis sets in:Prolonged plaque and tartar on the teeth will irritate the gingiva, inflame the gums over time and make them swollen and bleed out easily. This can also cause tooth decay.
What are the risk factors of gingivitis?
- Poor dental hygiene
- Use of tobacco and smoking
- Dry mouth
- Vitamin C deficiency due to unhealthy eating habits
- Ill-fitting dental works or misaligned teeth that make cleaning difficult
- Health problems that weaken the immune system like HIV/AIDS, leukaemia, etc.
- Certain medications
- Changes in hormones due to period, pregnancy and contraceptive use
What are the complications?
- Gum disease:When gingivitis isn't treated, it causes a very severe gum disease that can make you lose your teeth.
- Certain systemic diseases:Conditions like diabetes, stroke, coronary artery disease, and respiratory disease are believed to be linked with severe gingivitis.
- Necrotising ulcerative gingivitis (NUG):Also known as trench mouth, this is a chronic form of gingivitis that triggers pain, infection, bleeding in the gums and ulcerations.
How to prevent gingivitis
- Proper dental hygiene: You should brush and floss your teeth to remove plaque, food particles and bacteria. Follow your dentist's guidelines on how to brush your teeth.
- Dental visits biannually or annually:Go for regular dental checkups and professional teeth cleaning every 6 to 12 months to lower the risk of periodontitis from conditions like dry mouth and others. Dental X-rays will highlight hidden diseases and changes in oral health.
- Healthy lifestyle:Eating healthy foods and lowering blood sugar if you're diabetic makes for healthy gums.
Your dentist may carry out several dental procedures to identify gingivitis, including:
- Examining your gums, teeth and entire mouth
- Reviewing your medical and dental history
- Pocket depth measurement to spot unhealthy mouth
- Dental x-rays to know if there's a bone loss
- Other necessary tests
- Expert oral cleaning:Using the scaling and root planing technique, the dentist will remove plaque, tartar, and bacteria from your teeth.
- Dental restoration:If necessary, your dentist will fix issues with dental works that prevent teeth cleaning.
- Continuous care: Cleaning your teeth regularly as recommended and attending dental checkups will keep gingivitis away.
- Brush your teeth two times a day
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and replace them every 3 to 4 months
- Floss daily
- Use mouthrinses
- Practise other oral hygiene measures
Getting ready for your appointment
Note all the symptoms you're having, medications, medical conditions and questions to ask your dentist.
Expect your dentist to ask you questions about your symptoms, oral hygiene practices, and medical conditions.