All About Gingivitis

All About Gingivitis

Without proper brushing of the mouth and gums twice a day, and flossing at least once a day, plaque builds up and clings on teeth. Plaque is a sticky combination of mucus, food debris and bacteria. When plaque isn’t cleaned away, it hardens into a deposit called tartar (formally called calculus). As plaque and then tartar build up on teeth, the gums become irritated and sore. In addition to poor hygiene, other sources of possible mouth and gum irritation include misaligned teeth, poorly fitted and improperly cleaned mouth appliances (dentures, braces, bridges or crowns), or rough filling edges.

While sometimes gingivitis can be almost symptomless, the key clue is usually swollen, sore, or tender gums. The gum tissue may be so swollen it is shiny in appearance and it can be red or even purple in color. It may be tender to the touch but otherwise painless. Gums can bleed even with gentle brushing and flossing will be especially irritating. Bad breath will often occur and mouth sores are sometimes present as well.

A trip to the dentist and a simple visual exam can confirm if gingivitis is present. The dentist and dental hygienist will probably also see plaque and tartar build-up at the base of the teeth, near the gum line. While no further testing beyond a visual confirmation is really necessary, they may take x-rays and dental bone measurements to be sure that the damage hasn’t begun to spread further.

The obvious solution is to reduce inflammation by cleaning the teeth and removing the plaque and tartar. If the accumulation is extensive or extends below the gum line, the usual cleaning will not be effective and a more thorough dental procedure is necessary. This is a root scaling and planing called a debridement.

If misaligned teeth or improperly fitted dental appliances are the key culprits or contributing factors in creating the gingivitis, the dentist will pinpoint the problem(s) and make the necessary corrections. Any other health issues will need to be addressed and corrected if the patient is to make a full recovery and not have a recurrence. Of course, the need for more frequent thorough brushing and flossing will also be addressed and encouraged.

Typically, an individual’s teeth are professionally cleaned by a dental hygienist at their regular check-ups every six months. But to successfully prevent the recurrence of gingivitis, more frequent professional teeth cleaning be needed. The dentist may also recommend antibacterial mouth rinses, anti-plaque or antibacterial toothpastes or other over the counter or prescribed aids (like antibiotic medication).

If these measures do not prevent the recurrence or spread of gingivitis, periodontitis may result and the dentist will likely refer the patient to a periodontist. It’s necessary to remain vigilant and practice good dental hygiene every day to keep healthy gums pink and firm.