What is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums, usually caused
by a bacterial infection. If left untreated, it can become a more serious
infection known as periodontitis. Gingivitis and periodontitis are major causes
of tooth loss in adults, according to the American
Dental Association. Dental infections can add
up, with both your health and your wallet at stake. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, Americans spent an estimated $111 billion on dental
services in 2013.
What Causes Gingivitis?
gums actually attach to the teeth at a lower point than the gum edges that we
see. This forms a small space called a sulcus. Food can get trapped in this
space and cause a gum infection or gingivitis.
is a thin film of bacteria. It constantly forms on the surface of your teeth.
As plaque advances, it hardens and becomes tartar. You can develop an infection
when plaque extends below the gum line.
unchecked, gingivitis can cause the gums to separate from the teeth. This can
cause injury to the soft tissue and bone supporting the teeth. The tooth may
become loose and unstable. If infection progresses, you may ultimately lose
your tooth or need a dentist to remove it.
Risk Factors for Gingivitis
following are risk factors for gingivitis:
- smoking or chewing
- consuming certain
medications (oral contraceptives, steroids, anticonvulsants, calcium channel
blockers, and chemotherapy)
- crooked teeth
- dental appliances
that fit poorly
- broken fillings
- genetic factors
- compromised immunity
(such as HIV/AIDS patients)
What Are the Symptoms of Gingivitis?
people aren’t aware that they have gingivitis. It’s possible to have gum
disease without any symptoms. However, the following can be symptoms of
- gums that are red,
tender, or swollen
- gums that bleed when
you brush or floss your teeth
- gums that have
pulled away from the teeth
- loose teeth
- a change in how your
teeth fit together when you bite (malocclusion)
- pus between teeth
- pain when chewing
- sensitive teeth
- partial dentures
that no longer fit
- foul-smelling breath
that does not go away after you brush your teeth
How Is Gingivitis Diagnosed?
a dental exam, your gums will be probed with a small ruler. This probing is a
way to check for inflammation. It also measures any pockets around your teeth.
Normal depth is 1 to 3 millimeters. Your dentist also may order X-rays to check
for bone loss.
to your dentist about risk factors for gum disease as well as your symptoms.
This can help diagnose your gingivitis. If gingivitis is present, you may be
referred to a periodontist. A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the
treatment of gum diseases.
How Is Gingivitis Treated?
must practice proper oral hygiene to treat gingivitis. You should also cut back
on any smoking and control your diabetes. Other treatments include deep
cleaning your teeth, antibiotic medications, and surgery.
are several techniques that can be used to deep clean your teeth without
surgery. They all remove plaque and tarter to prevent gum irritation.
- Scaling removes
tartar from above and below the gum line.
- Root planing smoothes
rough spots and removes infected tooth parts.
- Lasers may
remove tartar with less pain and bleeding than scaling and root planing.
number of medications can be used to treat gingivitis.
- Antibiotic mouthwash containing
chlorhexidine can be used to disinfect the mouth.
- Time-release antiseptic chips containing chlorhexidine can be inserted into
pockets after root planing.
- Antibiotic microspheres made with minocycline can be inserted in pockets after scaling
- Oral antibiotics can
be used to treat persistent areas of gum inflammation.
- Doxycycline, an
antibiotic, can help keep enzymes from causing tooth damage.
- Flap surgery is
a procedure where the gums are lifted back while plaque is removed. The gums
are then sutured in place to fit snugly around the tooth.
- Bone and tissue grafts can
be used where the teeth and jaw are too damaged to heal.
How Can Gingivitis Be Prevented?
can be prevented by proper and consistent oral hygiene. Make certain to eat a
balanced diet and visit the dentist regularly. Brush your teeth twice daily
with fluoride toothpaste. Floss your teeth every day.
Complications of Gingivitis
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research report that gingivitis is associated with an increased
risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke, and lung disease. It also increases the
risk of a woman giving birth to a premature or low birth weight infant.