Gingivitis

Gingivitis is a mild, often reversible form of gum disease. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to a serious condition called periodontitis.

  • Causes

    A substance that forms on teeth called plaque causes gingivitis. Plaque is a sticky material, composed of bacteria, mucus, food, and other substances. It hardens to form tartar or calculus. When plaque is left on the teeth for an extended period of time, it can lead to gingivitis. Toxins produced by bacteria in dental plaque irritate the gum tissue and cause infection, inflammation, and pain.

  • Definition

    Gingivitis is a mild, often reversible form of gum disease. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to a serious condition called periodontitis.

    Gingivitis
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  • Diagnosis

    The dentist will examine your teeth and gums, assessing them for swelling and areas where the tissue is pulling away from the teeth, forming a pocket. Early diagnosis of the problem enables prompt treatment and the possibility of reversing the condition. It is important to see your dentist every six months for a cleaning because gingivitis may have no symptoms in the early stages.

  • Prevention

    Strategies to prevent gingivitis include:


    • Good dental habits:

      • Brushing teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste. There is some data that rotating oscillating electric toothbrushes are more effective in controlling gingivitis than “normal” brushing by hand.
      • Flossing at least once a day
      • Visiting the dentist's office for a cleaning at least every six months
    • Eating balanced, nutritious meals
    • Not smoking
    • Avoiding alcohol

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your risk of gingivitis include:

    • Poor brushing and flossing
    • Stress
    • Clenching teeth together or grinding teeth
    • Poor nutrition
    • Diabetes
    • Breathing through the mouth
    • HIV infection
    • Improper bite
    • Increased age
    • Pregnancy
    • Birth control pills
    • Family members with gum disease
    • Sex: male
    • Poorly fitting dentures

    • Some medications taken for
      high blood pressure,
      heart disease, and
      depression
    • Some seizure medications
    • Drinking alcohol
    • Smoking
    • Down syndrome

  • Symptoms

    Gingivitis is often painless with symptoms developing when it becomes worse.

    Symptoms may include:

    • Swollen, puffy gums
    • Tender gums
    • Redness in the gums or around the teeth
    • Bleeding gums during brushing or eating
    • Gum tissue that recedes or changes shape
    • Persistent bad breath

  • Treatment

    Gingivitis therapy aims to remove the irritating plaque and prevent its return.

    Treatment includes:

    • Regular dental checkups and good oral hygiene
    • Careful and frequent brushing and flossing
    • A healthful diet that is low in saturated fat and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables