Leaving the dentist’s office with a diagnosis of gingivitis is unsettling. What is gingivitis? How does it happen and what can be done to prevent it? If these are the questions on your mind, here’s what you need to know.
What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums. It’s a mild form of gum disease characterized by swollen, red, and irritated tissue along the base of your teeth. Gingivitis is common, but without treatment, it can lead to periodontal disease and tooth loss.
What causes it?
Several factors can contribute to gum disease including genetics, nutrition, and diabetes, but the most common cause is poor oral hygiene. Plaque, a sticky white or clear film that develops when the food you eat interacts with the normal bacteria in your mouth, coats your teeth and needs to be removed at least daily. When left behind, it hardens below the gum line, trapping potentially harmful bacteria. Hardened plaque, called tartar, cannot be brushed away and requires professional cleaning to remove.
How is it diagnosed?
During an exam, the dentist checks for common symptoms and uses a small probe to measure pockets in the gingiva. Normal, healthy gums rest firmly against a tooth’s surface, keeping bacteria out and protecting the structures below from damage, but when irritated tissue pulls away from teeth, pockets that trap plaque and tartar can form.
What are the risks of gingivitis?
If tartar traps bacteria under the gum line, it can result in chronic halitosis, infection, pain, damage to the tooth and bone beneath, and ultimately, tooth loss. The risks, however, don’t end there.
Studies have linked severe forms of gingivitis, or periodontal disease, to body-wide inflammation and suggest it may play a role in heart disease and stroke.
How is gingivitis treated?
The good news is that with proper treatment, gingivitis can be reversed. If your gums are infected, the dentist may opt to treat you with antibiotics before a complete cleaning and may recommend the use of antibacterial oral care products. With a clean slate, comprehensive oral hygiene and good general health habits can do the rest.
Dentists recommend you do the following:
- Schedule professional cleanings twice yearly
- Brush at least twice daily to remove plaque from teeth
- Floss daily to remove plaque between teeth and at the gum line
- Avoid smoking
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Eliminate sugary snacks between meals
Some cases of gingivitis are more stubborn than others, but the expert team at North View Dental is ready to help. Call today for a comfortable, professional consultation.