What is Gingivitis? How do I Know if I Have It?
If you are wondering if gingivitis is a non-destructive type of periodontal disease, Smile Design Dentistry has your answers.
Gingivitis is a term most of you have probably heard. It tends to be used a lot in toothpaste and mouthwash commercials. Or, you may have even heard it in your dental office. Chances are that while you have heard of the term gingivitis most of you probably do not know what it is.
QUESTION: So just what is gingivitis?
ANSWER: “Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums characterized by a change in color from normal pink to red, with swelling, bleeding, and often sensitivity and tenderness. These changes result when a layer of bacteria accumulates along the gum line and the body’s immune system responds to the release of destructive bacterial products,” According to Colgate.
It is also known as gingiva or gingival disease. So, in essence, this is an infection in your body that your body is attempting to fight. The natural follow up question to this is; “What is the big deal”?
QUESTION: Is Gingivitis Serious
ANSWER: We always get cuts, scrapes or illnesses that the body fights and then they go away. Why should we be concerned about gingivitis?” Well, gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease. If you do not take care of or treat your gingivitis it could turn into full-blown periodontal disease along with the implications. I will discuss that more in depth a little later but if we focus on gingivitis right now then take a look at what the symptoms are, implications if left untreated and what the treatment is for gingivitis.
Common Signs and Symptoms of Gingivitis
There are three levels of severity of gingivitis with various symptoms:
1) Mild gingivitis: There is a slight change in the color of your gums, from pink to red along with some slight puffiness. May include some minor bleeding when your hygienist probes.
2) Moderate gingivitis: The gums have now changed to red in color. There is some swelling of the gums and when you see your hygienist your gums may bleed when probed.
3) Severe gingivitis: The gums are now red and swollen, perhaps with ulcerations. They will bleed upon probing from your hygienist. You may also experience other symptoms: shiny gums, tender gums, persistent bad breath (halitosis) or a bad taste in your mouth.
These symptoms are indications that your body is fighting bacteria and/or infection that may be present. The more severe the symptoms the more severe the disease that is being established under your gum line. It is usually through inadequate home dental care that gingivitis is allowed to develop. When your teeth are not regularly brushed or cleaned, or you fail to routinely have your teeth professionally cleaned at your dental office, plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. This plaque and tartar can build up on the gum line allowing bacteria to form under the gums and create an environment for infection to develop.
As I stated above left untreated the gingivitis can transform into a full periodontal disease. With periodontal disease, you now need professional help from your dentist or hygienist for treatment. Left unchecked periodontal disease can cause you to lose bone in your jaw. It is your jaw bone that holds your teeth in place. Losing the jaw bone can put you in jeopardy of losing your teeth or needing dental implants. There are also a host of other complications that can arise from untreated periodontal disease:
Risks When Gingivitis Goes Untreated
- Respiratory Disease.
- Heart Disease
Needless to say if you have been diagnosed with gingivitis it is best to take care of it. Gingivitis is completely treatable with home care and professional supervision at your dental office. It is best to take immediate action to get the infection under control.
5 Steps to get Gingivitis Under Control
1) Get professional guidance. You hygienist and dentist will be happy to guide you towards dental health. The focus of their guidance will be to remove plaque, calculus, and tartar that can irritate the gums. Once removed the focus will shift to preventing its return.
2) Brush twice a day with a toothbrush that has soft bristles. (I know soft bristles are counter-intuitive when you are trying to scrub plaque off your teeth but hard bristles can actually damage the enamel on your teeth so dentists routinely steer people clear of toothbrushes with hard bristles.) What is even better than using a brush with soft bristles is to use an electric toothbrush. They will give the proper action to clean your teeth. What is even better is that they come with timers. Many people simply don’t brush long enough to effectively clean the teeth. Brushing should last for 2 minutes. The timer in the electric toothbrush will alert you every 30 seconds when it is time to change to a different part of the mouth, and alert you when you have completed your 2-minute brushing session.
If you are using a manual brush, hold the brush at a 45-degree angle to the gum line and chewing surfaces of the tooth. The brushing should be done in small circular motions. A manual toothbrush also requires you to brush slightly longer for 3-4 minutes.
3) Floss daily. You should hold the floss tightly and gently bring it down between your teeth and use up and down motions to clean. It is easy to want to bring the floss between the teeth quickly and too forcefully, causing the floss to strike your gum. This can be painful. Slow and steady is going to win this race! Make certain to go between all of your teeth and around the back of your last teeth. Also, don’t forget to adjust to a clean piece of floss every time you switch teeth. There are alternative methods for flossing if you are unable to do this basic method. Just ask your dental professional. They will help to show you the best method that can work for your teeth.
4) Oral rinses can also be a great help. There are over the counter options like Listerine. For the over the counter products you are looking for something that states it has an anti-plaque or anti-gingivitis formula that contains cetyigyridinium chloride or essential oils. Dental offices usually carry professional strengths rinses that can help.
5) Visit your dentist and hygienist every 6 months. Or do so more frequently if your dentist recommends it. They will be your best aid to get a proper diagnosis then help you to get your gingivitis under control. The severity of your condition will dictate how often they wish to see you, and the methods employed to help you get it under control, restore your smile, and get you back to dental health.
Gingivitis Treatment Options
The best news of all is that while gingivitis is a big word and sounds scary it is completely treatable. If you notice that your gums are red, swollen or tender or, you have persistent bad breath don’t ignore it. It may be a sign that you are developing or have gingivitis.
Just make sure you get in to see your dentist for a diagnosis and treatment recommendation. The combination of their guidance through treatment options combined with your effort will lead to a successful outcome in your battle with gingivitis!
We can help with any of your cosmetic dental needs and questions, as well.
We are available to help you take care of the health of your gums. Call us if you have more questions about what gingivitis is. 763-537-1238