Gingivitis is defined as a mild form of gum disease that causes irritation, inflammation, and redness around the gums (gingiva). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 47% of adults aged 30 or older suffer from some form of gum disease. If left untreated, gingivitis causes a more serious form of gum disease known as periodontal disease. Tooth decay and periodontal disease are the two biggest threats to oral health.
Understanding the causes, warning signs, and risk factors of gingivitis (gum disease) is key to treating and preventing periodontal disease. Read on to learn more about gingivitis and how to establish better dental health.
There are two main types of gingivitis:
Plaque-induced Gingivitis: When saliva, food, beverages, and bacteria combine, it creates dental plaque. When the plaque accumulates around and between the base of the teeth, it irritates the gums. This irritation causes an immune response, which can damage the gum tissue, cause an active gum infection, or even lead to tooth loss.
Non-Plaque Induced Gingivitis: Viruses, genetic factors, allergic reactions, or dentures may all be non-plaque related causes of gingivitis.
When the gums are healthy, the gum line should appear firm, pale pink, and fitted closely around the teeth. Some signs and symptoms of early gum disease include:
- Tender gums
- Red or swollen gums
- Puffy gums
- Soft gums
- Purple gums
- Gums that recede from the teeth
- Gums that bleed while brushing or flossing
- Bad breath
The plaque build-up from saliva, food, beverages, and bacteria is a typical and expected cause of gingivitis. However, the American Dental Association suggests that other factors put patients at risk of developing gum disease:
- Smoking: Smokers are more likely to produce bacterial plaque compared to non-smokers.
- Medications: Some medications decrease saliva production. A decrease in saliva can lead to more bacterial growth, which produces more plaque on the teeth. Increased plaque leads to increased irritation around the gums.
- Malnutrition: Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals can impact gum tissue and affect oral health.
- Hormonal Changes: The gums can be more sensitive during puberty, menopause, and pregnancy, which increases the risk of inflammation and immune response.
- Comorbidities: Some diseases, such as diabetes, HIV, and cancer, are linked to a higher risk of gingivitis and periodontitis.
- Age: The risk of gingivitis increases as we get older.
- Genes: People who have a family history of gingivitis are at a higher risk of developing it, too.
Untreated gingivitis leads to periodontal disease. Eventually, complications can arise, such as:
- An infection in the gum tissue or jawbone
- Severe gum disease (periodontitis)
- Tooth loss
- Increased risk of heart attack or stroke
Treating gingivitis requires a proper cleaning from a trained dental professional. A dental hygienist will remove plaque that is built up on the teeth and gums. If treated early enough, gum disease can be reversed.
Healthy gums start with good oral hygiene. Patients can prevent gingivitis easily by:
- Scheduling dental cleanings every 6 months
- Using an electric toothbrush
- Brushing at least twice a day
- Flossing regularly
- Rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash
- Limiting sugar foods and beverages
At Winter Dental, we provide excellent dental care to treat gingivitis and prevent periodontal diseases. Whether you require preventative, restorative, or cosmetic services, our caring team is here to facilitate optimal oral health and hygiene. Schedule your dental visit by calling (303) 424-4567 or by visiting our website.