Gingivitis is a common and mild form of a gum disease which occurs when plaque builds up on teeth causing irritation, redness, swelling and inflammation of your surrounding gum tissue.
It’s important to take gingivitis seriously and treat it promptly. Because it can lead to much more serious gum disease called periodontitis and tooth loss.
Gingivitis is reversible with good oral hygiene; however, without treatment, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, in which the inflammation of the gums results in tissue destruction around the teeth. Periodontitis can ultimately lead to tooth loss.
Causes of gingivitis
Gingivitis is caused by plaque. This plaque contains large numbers of bacteria which produces toxins that can irritate the gums and cause them to become red, inflamed, puffy, and may even lead to bleeding.
Other factors might increase your risk of gingivitis such as:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Smoking or tobacco use
- Aggressive oral hygiene such as brushing with stiff bristles
- Dry mouth
- Poor nutrition especially vitamin C deficiency
- Immunosuppresive states such as leukemia, HIV/AIDS or cancer treatment
- Certain drugs, such as phenytoin for epileptic seizures and some calcium channel blockers, used for angina, high blood pressure and other conditions.
- Hormonal changes, such as those related to pregnancy, menstrual cycle or use of birth control pills
- Genetic factors
- Medical conditions such as certain viral and fungal infections.
Signs and Symptoms
Because gingivitis doesn’t often cause pain, many people don’t know they have it. However, the following can be symptoms of gingivitis:
- Bright red puffy gums
- Sore gums that doesn’t go away
- Tender gums that may be painful to the touch
- Bleeding from the gums especially when brushing or flossing
- Halitosis or bad breath that doesn’t go away after brushing
- Inflamed, tender and swollen gums
- Tooth pain or sensitivity such as to hot or cold foods and beverages
- Loose teeth
Treating gingivitis is all about eliminating as much plaque from your teeth and gums as possible. The best way to treat it is to catch it early. Practice proper oral hygiene you should also cut back on any risk factors. Other treatments include:
- Antiseptic mouthwash containing chemicals such as chlorhexidine or hydrogen peroxide can be used to disinfect the mouth.
- Oral antibiotics such as doxycycline, amoxicillin can be used to treat persistent areas of gum inflammation.
- Scaling often used to remove tartar from above and below the gum line.
- Root planing which smooths rough spots and removes plaque and tartar from the root surface.
- Lasers may remove tartar with less pain and bleeding than scaling and root planing.