Gingivitis – Symptoms, Causes & Remedies Discussed
You might sometimes hear gingivitis described as periodontal disease. These two things are one and the same. Both refer to a common issue that plagues the gums. Although gingivitis is fairly common, it does need to be taken care of right away. Ignoring the symptoms can lead to many other problems, including periodontitis and tooth loss. Before you head off to the dentist to see if you suffer from this common malady, you first need to understand the basics of the disease, starting with the main symptoms.
Symptoms of Gingivitis
Healthy gums are always pink in color. They are firm to the touch and fit tightly around your teeth. In fact, they are one of the biggest signs of having a healthy mouth. Gingivitis, on the other hand, is the exact opposite. Your gums will be red in color. They’ll look swollen, and might bleed when you brush your teeth. Your gums might also start to recede, or shrink. As a result, they’ll become more sensitive, since the roots of your teeth are exposed. You might also have bad breath, as a result of the gums trapping food particles and other things in them.
Causes of Gingivitis
Gingivitis has one main cause – poor oral hygiene. This means that you’re either not brushing your teeth well enough (or often enough), skip flossing, don’t see your dental hygienist for cleanings, or any combination of these. Over time, bad oral hygiene can lead to plaque. Although you can’t see the plaque, it’s there. This clear film coats the teeth and is caused by eating starchy and sugary foods. It needs to be removed daily, or it can end up in your gums where it traps bacteria and causes your gum line to recede. In short, it’s a big problem. There are other causes of gingivitis as well, including smoking cigarettes, using chewing tobacco, genetics, and the hormonal changes that come with menopause and pregnancy. You might be susceptible to gingivitis if you don’t eat a balanced diet, have nutrient deficiencies, or suffer from dry mouth. Although all of these causes are valid, the main one relates to your oral hygiene, as we already explained.
If you keep ignoring your gingivitis, you could end up losing your teeth. Over time, the trapped bacteria that changed your gum line can affect the bones underneath your gums. Your teeth will begin to loosen and may even fall out. Once this happens, there’s no saving them. You’ll have to get dentures once the gingivitis treatments are complete. Thankfully, gingivitis can be stopped before it reaches this point.
Treatments for gingivitis include dental cleanings. This is the first step. A dental hygienist will go into and perform a tooth scaling procedure that removes all of the built-up plaque from your teeth. He or she will go into your gum line if necessary to remove anything that has been trapped in the pockets formed by gingivitis. A procedure called root planning is also done, which involves cleaning the roots of your teeth to ensure that nothing builds up there in the future. These two cleaning procedures are usually done with ultrasonic devices or lasers.
Once all traces of the plaque have been removed, the next step involves fixing any other tooth issues. If you have crowns or bridges that aren’t fitting properly, they can continue to trap plaque and bacteria, causing your gingivitis to flare up again. Repairing them, as well as any cavities or other problems, must be done in order to bring your mouth back to a healthy state.
Finally, you’ll have to practice good oral hygiene. This involves brushing and flossing twice a day, as well as going to the right dentist for regular cleanings. Those won’t be as involved as the ultrasonic and laser-based treatments. Instead, if you go twice a year as you’re supposed to, you’ll just have to go through the standard cleaning procedures. These cleanings, combined with brushing and flossing, can prevent your gingivitis from reoccurring.
But, What If Your Gingivitis Has Progressed Into Periodontitis?
The treatments described above are standard for most minor varieties of gingivitis. If you have a progressed form, one that’s become periodontitis, the treatments are a bit more extreme. Although you’ll have to undergo the extreme cleanings and may even have to take antibiotics to kill the bacteria, your dentist will have to shore up your gum line to make it stronger. Receded gums won’t automatically grow back. You’ll have to undergo bone grafting surgery to strengthen the roots of your teeth, have the tissue removed from the roof of your mouth and implanted around your gum line, and even undergo flap surgery. This is when your existing gums are sliced and pulled back from around your teeth, allowing a hygienist to get in there more deeply and really clean out the gum pockets.