Gingivitis! What on earth is it? Well, it is a chronic inflammation or infection of your gums (gingiva) which surround the teeth and is also known as gum disease or periodontal disease. It causes swelling, bleeding, pain and sensitivity in your mouth and, if untreated, can lead to periodontitis which is a much more serious oral health problem that cannot be reversed without surgery. It is associated with poor oral hygiene and is a leading cause of tooth loss among adults and is also linked to heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.
The main cause of gingivitis is the long-term effect of plaque deposits but there are other things that will raise your risk of developing gum disease such as the following which tend to weaken your immune system:
- General illness
- Misaligned teeth
- Rough edges of filling
- Ill-fitting or unclean mouth appliances
- Certain medications
- Substance abuse
- Poor nutrition
- Certain diseases and conditions
- Hormonal fluctuations
Now you may not even be aware that you have gingivitis because it is usually not painful but you can watch for it by being aware of the following signs and symptoms that may indicate gum disease:
- Bright red or red-purple appearance to your gums
- Bleeding gums (even a little blood on your toothbrush)
- Tender gums
- Swollen gums
- Puffy gums
- Mouth sores
- Shiny appearance to your gums
- Chronic bad breath
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
- Itchy gums
- Bad taste in your mouth
Gingivitis, if not managed well at home with good dental hygiene can turn into the most severe periodontal infection which is ANUG (acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis), also known as trench mouth and this may require treatment at a hospital. Trench mouth not only affects your gums but may spread to the tissues of your face, neck and bone. You will definitely know you should quickly see your dentist as you may now be experiencing bleeding of your gums, pain, bad breath, loose teeth, swollen lymph nodes, fever or weakness.
Like gingivitis, trench mouth will usually affect people with poor immune systems which could be due to malnutrition, HIV or cancer to name only a few. The treatment for trench mouth involves getting rid of the oral bacteria with antibacterial mouthwashes, oral antibiotics, periodontal treatment and the treatment of any underlying illness.
If you have any of the above symptoms, see your dentist as gingivitis is a clinical diagnosis where the dentist arrives at it by performing a good oral exam and listening to your medical and dental history. You may need blood work, x-rays or tissue samples if you are not responding to the initial therapy and you should also be checked for any underlying disease. Treatments of gum disease can be any of the following or a combination of some:
- Thorough cleaning of the teeth
- Proper brushing and flossing
- Antibacterial mouth rinses
- Repair of misaligned teeth
- Replacement of dental and orthodontic appliances
- Regular dental visits
In additions to the above traditional treatments for gingivitis, you may be able to help prevent it with some of the following alternatives:
- Vitamin C supplements
- Grapefruit seed extract
For a severe case of gingivitis, you may be referred to a periodontist, a specialist in gum disease. All of the above information is only a little of what you should know about gum disease so please see your dentist regularly and practice good oral hygiene to prevent it.
To learn more about gingivitis, check out our section on gum disease or call us at 1-877-283-0497 to book your appointment at your convenience.