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Gingivitis, also referred to as mild gum disease, is characterized by inflammation of the gum tissue. The damage caused by gingivitis can be reversed when treated promptly.
Left untreated, gingivitis will progress into periodontal disease, a severe form of gum disease that develops from long-term plaque and calculus buildup. Periodontal disease permanently damages the gums and bones and can only be treated with surgery.
Yes, gingivitis is completely curable if you act quickly. Most cases of gingivitis can be reversed with a professional dental cleaning, followed by practicing good oral hygiene at home.
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. Gingivitis typically doesn’t cause pain, exhibit clear symptoms, or affect your daily life.
It’s vital you attend regular dental check-ups to monitor for gingivitis. The earlier your dentist catches it, the less likely you are to develop periodontal disease or lose teeth in the future.
Gingivitis is caused by a buildup of plaque, 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. These risk factors include:
Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for developing gum disease. Research shows that 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 such as 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 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. These include certain blood pressure medications, heart disease medications, anti-seizure medications, and immunosuppressants.
Dry mouth occurs when the salivary glands in the mouth do not 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.
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.
You may notice inflamed, red, and/or swollen gums during this first stage. However, sometimes no symptoms are present.
When gingivitis goes untreated, it will progress to the intermediate stage of gum disease, periodontitis. Plaque continues to build up, harden, and collect below the gumline. There, it releases toxins that trigger increased gum inflammation.
The gums will start to pull away from the teeth, forming periodontal pockets. Plaque and tartar continue to migrate into these pockets, which are difficult to clean. You may notice a separation between the gums and the teeth and loose teeth at this stage.
Unlike gingivitis, periodontitis can’t be reversed. However, it can be slowed down with treatments like scaling and root planing.
Without treatment, periodontitis will become more severe. You can experience:
When gum disease advances to this stage, it may require tooth extractions and/or surgery.
Gingivitis doesn’t always cause obvious 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 more obvious symptoms such as:
Gingivitis is fully reversible if you act quickly. 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 clean your teeth and gums with specialized instruments. These instruments remove plaque and tartar that a normal toothbrush cannot.
If your gum disease doesn’t progress beyond the early stages, no further treatment is necessary.
However, your dentist will recommend more invasive treatment if you have periodontitis. Common treatment options for periodontal disease include scaling and root planing, gum flap surgery, bone grafts, and/or gum grafts.
After your professional dental treatment, you’ll need to practice vigilant oral care. Brush your teeth twice daily, floss at least once per day, and see your dentist for cleanings every 6 months.
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, characterized by mild inflammation of the gums. It’s caused by a build-up of plaque, 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 symptoms at all.
Left untreated, gingivitis can progress into periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease. Periodontitis is irreversible and involves bone loss, separation of the teeth from the gums, and loose teeth.
Gingivitis is easy to treat and prevent. A professional dental cleaning can reverse mild forms of gum disease. You can prevent gingivitis by taking care of your teeth, avoiding smoking, and visiting your dentist for regular check-ups.
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