Gingivitis is the initial stage of gum disease, a condition that can lead to a host of serious dental health problems. However, despite the havoc it can wreak on mouths, many people don’t fully understand the condition. Sure, they may know that gingivitis is something that they want to avoid, but they may not really know what it is, what causes it, the damage it can do, and how to avoid it.
Here’s a look at what you need to know about this harrowing dental health condition.
What is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the formal term used to describe gum inflammation. It’s the first stage of gum disease. It’s also the most treatable stage of gum disease.
This condition is the direct result of plaque buildup. Plague is a soft and sticky film that forms over the teeth and gums. It’s made up of bacteria from and it’s constantly forming. In order to remove plaque, you have to brush and floss your teeth on a daily basis. You should also have a dentist perform regular cleanings. If you aren’t exercising proper oral hygiene, plaque will build up. When that happens, it starts to create toxins that will eventually irritate delicate gum tissue – the start of gum disease.
With prompt treatment, gingivitis can be reversed and the damaging effects can be prevented. However, if left untreated, that plaque buildup will eventually lead to periodontitis, a condition that can do permanent damage, including tooth loss and even loss of your jaw bone.
Signs of Gingivitis
The signs of gingivitis are pretty telltale and hard to miss. The symptoms include:
- Swelling of the gums
- Redness of the gums
- Bleeding gum tissue, especially after brushing or flossing
- Tender or painful gums
- A receding gum line
- Chronic bad breath
If you notice any of these symptoms, make sure you schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. As mentioned, the sooner gingivitis is treated, the less devastating the results will be.
Who’s at Risk?
Gingivitis doesn’t occur more in some people than in others. In other words, males aren’t more likely to get it than females; everyone is at risk of developing this condition. However, there are certain factors that can make you more prone to developing this initial stage of gum disease. These factors include:
- Not practicing proper dental hygiene
- Using tobacco products (smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco)
- Excessive dry mouth (which could be a side effect of certain medications)
- Repeatedly breathing through the mouth
- Poor diet
- Immune system disorders
- Brushing or flossing aggressively
It is also believed that genetics plays a role in gingivitis. So, if a family member has had it, it’s really important for you to keep tabs on your dental health.
Treatment for Gingivitis
If you spot signs of gingivitis, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. However, there are some things that you can do at home to treat it, too.
- Brush with an antibacterial toothpaste. This type of toothpaste will kill off the bacteria that forms in plague and results in gingivitis, which can help to prevent the condition from worsening.
- Rinse with an antibacterial mouthwash. When used in combination with antibacterial toothpaste, you can really kill off the harmful bacteria that cause gingivitis.
- Floss on a regular basis. Flossing helps to remove particles from food that ultimately feed plaque and the bad bacteria that forms in it.
- Improve your brushing technique. Brush for 2 minutes at least twice a day (morning and night). Set a timer if it will help. Also, make sure you are paying attention to those hard-to-reach spots where plaque can easily build up, like the back of your gums and even the roof of your mouth.
How to Prevent Gingivitis
Of course, the goal is to keep gingivitis completely at bay. The following dental hygiene tips can help you avoid gingivitis in the first place:
- Brush every day, at least twice a day, and for two minutes.
- Use an antibacterial toothpaste and mouthwash. Not only will this treat gum disease, but it can also prevent it.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. Foods with a high sugar content or that stick to your teeth can increase the risk of gum disease.
- Floss regularly. If possible, floss after every meal, but at least once a day, preferably at night.
- Use care while brushing. Avoid using a hard bristled brush, as it can wear away delicate gum tissue, making you more susceptible to gingivitis. Also, use gentle pressure; don’t press too hard on your teeth while you are brushing.
- Avoid using tobacco products, such as cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco.
- See your dentist regularly. Routine checkups (once every 6 months), can help prevent gingivitis, or will allow you to receive prompt treatment should it develop.
Gingivitis is the leading cause of periodontal disease, a condition that can be quite painful and result in tooth loss; not to mention, a condition that can be quite costly to treat. By keeping up with your oral hygiene and seeing your dentist on a regular basis, you can avoid gum disease and keep your mouth healthy and happy.
If you think that you have gingivitis or you would like to learn more about this condition – including ways you can prevent it – contact our office to schedule an appointment. We will gladly review this extremely common dental health condition and make sure that your mouth is in tip-top shape!