Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums. Over time, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis, a more serious gum disease that causes the teeth to become loose (the gums recede) as well as the formation of pockets between the teeth and gums where bacteria can thrive. If no measures are taken to counter these bacteria, they will eat away at the bone at the root of the tooth and slowly destroy it. It is one of the leading causes of tooth loss. The entire process is very lengthy and is generally painless.

Gingivitis can be prevented. To do so, it is recommended that you brush your teeth morning and night and floss once a day. Going to the dentist for a cleaning and exam, at least once a year, is also recommended.

Causes

Gingivitis is caused by bacteria commonly referred to as plaque. If plaque is not promptly removed, it develops into tartar which can damage the gum. It only takes about three days for plaque to turn into tartar. That being said, if food particles remain lodged between the teeth for too long, it then becomes impossible to remove them by brushing or flossing. Tartar is rock-hard and can only be removed by the dentist during a teeth cleaning.

Smoking also increases one's risk of developing gingivitis, as well as mouth cancer.

Symptoms

The symptoms associated with gingivitis are quite easy to identify:

  • Change in colour of gums (redder)
  • Swollen, blistered gums
  • Bleeding when brushing teeth, after a meal or at night

Generally speaking, bleeding gums are not painful. Symptoms may also include bad breath.

Diagnosis

Ideally, gingivitis is diagnosed by a dentist. Your dentist will be able to advise you on what you can do to remedy the situation. A physician can also recognize the signs of gingivitis but may not necessarily be able to intervene adequately.

Treatment

The first step involves removing the tartar from the teeth. This quick and easy intervention is carried out by a dental hygienist. This procedure alone can help reduce the inflammation around the gums and resolve the problem. The problem can further be prevented by using a special toothpaste and mouthwash. The dentist can advise you on which products will work best for you.

If the gingivitis is more advanced, curettage may be required. This procedure, done under local anaesthesia, is aimed at removing the bacteria that has lodged itself under the gum. And lastly, there are certain types of gingivitis (not as common) that require antibiotic treatment.

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