Gingivitis is a minor form of gum disease. It is estimated that over 80% of the world's population suffer from gingivitis. Gingivitis is caused by tartar and plaque build up which, if not removed, can produce bacteria which spread toxins and chemicals throughout the mouth, between the teeth and on or under the gums. Tartar (also known as calculus) and plaque build up can be noticeable adherents on the teeth or can be microscopic. Either can cause the bacteria leading to gingivitis and the severity of the gingivitis depends on many factors including the person's health, age or oral hygiene habits.
What Causes Gingivitis
When proper oral hygiene is not practiced, including regular visits to the dentist, plaque and tartar can build up on the surface of your teeth, above and below the gums. If the plaque and tartar are not removed, the bacteria in the plaque and tartar can produce chemicals and toxins that cause the gums to be inflamed, particularly around the teeth. Because gingivitis is caused by plaque and tartar build up and the resulting bacteria, lack of oral hygiene is an indirect cause of gingivitis. Skipping dentist appointments where plaque can be scraped from between the gums and teeth can also be a cause of gingivitis. Forgetting to floss can cause gingivitis which starts between the teeth. If you are particularly susceptible to gingivitis, neglecting the use of antiseptic mouthwashes can alone start the cycle of gingivitis.
Typical symptoms of gingivitis revolve around the gums. As bacteria releases chemicals and toxins on the teeth and the gums, the body's autoimmune system attacks it, thus causing inflammation. Inflammation of the gums can then causes gum recession (the peeling back of the gums, exposing more of the tooth), and can also cause separation of the gum from the tooth, resulting in ‘pockets' where more bacteria and plaque can accumulate. Failure to treat gingivitis at this stage can lead to severe gum diseases such as periodontitis which can result in gum and tooth tissue loss, loose teeth and eventually loss of the tooth altogether. Long before these extreme symptoms occur, gingivitis can also be responsible for red, swollen gums which are painful to the touch. Shiny gums are also common, and some people with gingivitis suffer from ‘itchy' gums. Another common symptom of gingivitis is bleeding gums, which occurs when brushing teeth or flossing. Eating harder foods can also cause bleeding gums. Because people with gingivitis have excess bacteria and foreign chemicals in their mouth, mouth sores such as cankers can be more common. Halitosis, or bad breath, is another common symptom of gingivitis.
Here are few ways to determine if you may have gingivitis
Your teeth frequently bleed after brushing or flossing
Your gum line appears to be receding
Your gums are swollen in one or multiple areas, in some cases separating from the teeth leaving a small space between gums and tooth
You have an increase in mouth sores such as cankers
The best way to prevent gingivitis is to maintain regular, proper oral hygiene. Regularly brushing your teeth (3 times a day) and regular flossing can help prolong the onset of gingivitis causing bacteria. Using an antiseptic mouth wash once a day can also kill bacteria that causes plaque, thus helping reduce the chances of gingivitis developing. All of these prevention methods must be used in conjunction with regular visits to your dentist. The reason for this is when a dentist notices any plaque build up, they can perform debridement or scaling which is the removal of any noticeable plaque by scraping.
Treatment and Care
Even practising proper and regular oral hygiene and visiting your dentist twice a year will not always prevent at least minor inflammation in the gums. Treating your gums and caring for inflamed regions is easy to do and provides ongoing comfort, further healing the gums.