Gingivitis is an inflammatory disease that affects the gingival tissues supporting the teeth, also known as the gums.
Generally caused by poor oral hygiene, gingivitis is a reversible disease. The condition can sometimes be painful, but in most cases, it doesn't hurt. A person with gingivitis may have the following symptoms:
- Irritation (and sometimes bleeding)
If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to serious complications, the most common being periodontitis. Perionditis is a serious disease that results in receding gums, which cause the teeth to loosen and separate. These new gaps allow the proliferation of bacteria. If left untreated, the bacterial infection will move down to the root of the tooth and eventually destroy it. This is one of the main causes of tooth loss.
Causes and triggers
The main cause of gingivitis is an accumulation of plaque. A substance made up of food debris and bacteria, plaque is naturally deposited on the teeth every day. When oral hygiene is inadequate, the bacteria contained in plaque can multiply and infect the gums. Furthermore, without daily brushing and flossing, plaque can harden into tartar, which can only be removed by a dental professional.
Gingivitis can also be caused or aggravated by the following:
- Mouth lesions (e.g., cuts, ulcers)
- Certain diseases (e.g., diabetes)
- Certain medications
- Certain microbial infections
- Hormonal changes (e.g., puberty, pregnancy, menopause)
The first step is to eliminate the cause. If you have tartar, a quick and simple procedure performed by a dental hygienist can sometimes be enough to solve the problem.
If your gingivitis is more advanced, a curettage under local anesthesia may be necessary to dislodge the bacteria under your gums. Finally, certain types of gingivitis require antibiotics.
The development and recurrence of gingivitis can be prevented by adopting the following habits:
- Brush your teeth and tongue twice a day
- Floss daily
- Quit smoking
- Consume sugar in moderation
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Visit the dentist at least once a year to have tartar removed
- Check your gums regularly and consult a dentist as soon as symptoms appear
Your dentist may also recommend the use of specialized mouthwashes or toothpaste.
When should I see a health care professional?
Contact your dentist if you notice the following symptoms:
- Blood on your toothbrush
- Painful gums
- Swollen gums
- Changes to the colour of your gums