Gingivitis: Description, Caues and Risk Factors:
Alternative Names: Gum disease, periodontal disease.
Inflammation of the gingiva as a response to bacterial plaque on adjacent teeth; characterized by erythema, edema, and fibrous enlargement of the gingiva without resorption of the underlying alveolar bone.
Gingivitis is a form of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease involves inflammation and infection that destroys the tissues that support the teeth, including the gums, the periodontal ligaments, and the tooth sockets (alveolar bone).
Gingivitis is due to the long-term effects of plaque deposits. Plaque is a sticky material made of bacteria, mucus, and food debris that develops on the exposed parts of the teeth. It is a major cause of tooth decay. If you do not remove plaque, it turns into a hard deposit called tartar that becomes trapped at the base of the tooth. Plaque and tartar irritate and inflame the gums. Bacteria and the toxins they produce cause the gums to become infected, swollen, and tender.
Factors that can increase the risk of gingivitis include:
- Older age.
- Certain medications.
- Certain viral and fungal infections.
- Dry mouth.
- Hormonal changes, such as those related to pregnancy.
- Poor nutrition.
- Substance abuse.
- Ill-fitting dental restorations.
Signs and symptoms of gingivitis may include:
- Soft gums.
- Occasionally, tender gums.
- Gums that bleed easily when brushing or flossing.
- Bad breath.
- A change in the color of your gums from a healthy pink to dusky red.
Diagnosis of gingivitis is generally simple. Diagnosis is based on your description of symptoms and an exam of your mouth and tongue. Your dentist will look for plaque and tartar buildup and may check for easy bleeding.
The dentist will examine your mouth and teeth and look for soft, swollen, red-purple gums. Deposits of plaque and tartar may be seen at the base of the teeth. The gums are usually painless or mildly tender.
No further testing is usually necessary, although dental x-rays and dental bone measurements may be done to determine whether the inflammation has spread to the supporting structures of the teeth.
Gingivitis treatment usually starts by thoroughly cleaning your teeth. This includes removing all traces of plaque and tartar — a procedure known as scaling. The cleaning may be uncomfortable, especially if your gums are already sensitive or you have extensive plaque and tartar buildup. Your dentist may also recommend using an antiseptic mouth rinse to clear away bacteria. Your dentist will also review brushing and flossing techniques to make sure you’re doing these effectively.
The teeth are cleaned thoroughly by the dentist or dental hygienist. This may involve various instruments or devices to loosen and remove deposits from the teeth.
Careful oral hygiene is necessary after professional tooth cleaning. The dentist or hygienist will show you how to brush and floss. Professional tooth cleaning in addition to brushing and flossing may be recommended twice per year or more frequently for severe cases. Antibacterial mouth rinses or other aids may be recommended in addition to frequent, careful, tooth brushing and flossing.
Repair of misaligned teeth or replacement of dental and orthodontic appliances may be recommended. Any other related illnesses or conditions should be treated.
Good oral hygiene is the best prevention against gingivitis because it removes the plaque that causes the disorder. The teeth should be brushed at least twice daily and flossed gently at least once per day. For people who are prone to gingivitis, brushing and flossing may be recommended after every meal and at bedtime. Consult the dentist or dental hygienist for instructions on proper brushing and flossing techniques.
Special appliances or tools may be recommended by the dentist for use by people who are particularly prone to plaque deposits. The use of supplements does not replace thorough brushing and flossing. Appliances and tools may include special toothpicks, toothbrushes, water irrigation, or other devices.
Antiplaque or antitartar toothpastes or mouth rinses may be recommended by the dentist or dental hygienist.
Regular professional tooth cleaning is important to remove plaque that may develop even with careful brushing and flossing. Many dentists recommend having the teeth professionally cleaned at least every 6 months.
DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.