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Gingivitis, or mild gum disease, is the inflammation of the gum tissue.1 Prompt treatment can reverse its damage.
Otherwise, gingivitis can progress into periodontal disease, a severe form of gum disease that develops from long-term plaque and calculus buildup. It permanently damages the gums and bones and requires surgical treatment.
Gingivitis is due to plaque buildup, a sticky film of bacteria that naturally forms on your teeth. The bacteria in plaque cause inflammation and irritation in the gums, leading to gingivitis.
Multiple factors can put you at a higher risk of developing harmful plaque, including:
Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for developing gum disease. Tobacco users are 2 to 20 times more likely to develop periodontitis than their non-smoking counterparts.2 Using tobacco can also reduce your chances of successfully treating gingivitis or periodontal disease.
Taking care of your teeth at home is essential in preventing the plaque build-up that causes gingivitis. Dental professionals recommend brushing your teeth twice daily and flossing at least once daily.
Constant stress weakens the immune system and increases inflammation. While there’s insufficient evidence to show that stress can cause gum disease, it may be a risk indicator for it.3
People may be at a higher risk of developing gingivitis during hormonal events. These include pregnancy, menses, puberty, and menopause.
Roughly 60 to 75 percent of pregnant women develop gingivitis.4 Gum disease can also pass from mother to baby, which may lead to low birth weight or preterm birth.
Poor nutrition makes it difficult for the body to fight bacterial infection, putting you at a higher risk of developing gum disease. The buildup of dental plaque is also more likely, especially when consuming sugary or processed foods long-term.
Cancer, diabetes, and HIV make it difficult to fight off infections, including gingivitis. Some prescription medications can also increase your risk of gum disease, including certain blood pressure medications, heart disease medications, anti-seizure medications, and immunosuppressants.
A dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands in the mouth don’t produce enough saliva to keep the mouth wet. This condition is often a side effect of aging. Medications, smoking, radiation therapy, and mouth breathing can also lead to dry mouth and gum disease.
Other factors that can cause gingivitis include:
Yes, plaque-induced gingivitis is curable if you act quickly. Undergoing professional dental cleaning and maintaining good oral hygiene can reverse most cases of gingivitis.
Forty-six percent of all adults aged 30 and up show signs of gum disease.1 Many people don’t realize they have it until it progresses into periodontal disease since gingivitis typically doesn’t cause symptoms.
You must attend regular dental check-ups to monitor for gingivitis. The earlier your dentist catches it, the less likely you’ll develop periodontal disease or lose teeth.
There are three stages of gum disease:
Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease. It occurs when you accumulate a film of plaque in your mouth.
During this first stage, you may notice inflamed, red, or swollen gums. However, sometimes no symptoms are present.
Untreated gingivitis progresses to the intermediate stage of gum disease, periodontitis. It involves the following:
Unlike gingivitis, periodontitis is irreversible. However, you can slow it down with treatments like scaling and root planing.
Without treatment, periodontitis will become more severe. The symptoms of advanced periodontitis include:
Gum disease may require tooth extractions or surgery when it advances to this stage.
Gingivitis doesn’t always cause noticeable symptoms, so you may not detect it for some time without routine dental visits. However, some people may notice warning signs that point to mild gum disease, including:5
When gingivitis progresses into periodontitis, you’ll notice these more obvious symptoms:
To diagnose someone with gingivitis, a dentist will:
Your dentist may also recommend a medical evaluation to check for underlying health conditions. They may refer you to a periodontist (gum disease specialist) if you have advanced gum disease.
The primary treatments for gingivitis include:
The only way to completely reverse gingivitis is to remove plaque and tartar. A dental hygienist or dentist will use specialized instruments to clean your teeth and gums. These materials remove plaque and tartar that a regular toothbrush cannot.
Scaling removes tartar buildup and plaque from the teeth and below the gum line. Dental professionals use hand, laser, or ultrasonic devices during scaling to ensure they can clean teeth thoroughly.
After scaling, they may also perform root planing. Root planing involves smoothening the tooth’s root surfaces to prevent bacteria from sticking and help the gums adhere back to the teeth.
Scaling and root planing may require a local anesthetic. It could also take more than a few dental visits to complete.
After your professional dental treatment, you’ll need to practice vigilant oral care. It includes brushing your teeth twice daily, flossing at least once per day, and seeing your dentist for cleanings every six months.
Make sure to schedule regular checkups and cleanings every 6 to 12 months. People with risk factors for gingivitis or a history of it should get cleanings and checkups every two weeks to 3 months.
Regular dental checkups ensure your teeth and gums remain in their best condition. Your dentist or dental hygienist can also catch and treat gingivitis before it worsens.
A dentist or periodontist can fix braces and dentures that don’t fit properly. They can also fix teeth that are misshapen or crooked, which can cause them to harbor bacteria.
When your dental devices fit better, it becomes more manageable to maintain good oral hygiene. Having a solid oral hygiene routine can make gingivitis treatment easier or prevent the need for it altogether.
No further treatment is necessary if your gum disease doesn’t progress beyond the early stages. However, your dentist will recommend more invasive treatment if you have periodontitis.
Common treatment options for periodontal disease include:
If you have a mild form of gingivitis, you can treat the condition at home by:
If you suspect you have gingivitis, consult a dentist on the best treatment option.
All gum disease is preventable if you practice diligent oral hygiene. You can prevent gingivitis and its more advanced stages by following these simple steps:
Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease, involving mild inflammation of the gums. Plaque buildup causes it, the natural film of bacteria that forms on teeth.
The main symptoms of gingivitis are red, swollen, and bleeding gums, though many people will notice no signs at all. Periodontitis is irreversible and involves bone loss, separation of the teeth from the gums, and loose teeth.
Gingivitis is easy to treat and prevent. Talk to a dental professional immediately if your gums are red, swollen, sensitive, or bleed easily.
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