Have your gums been looking a little swollen and red? Do they ever bleed while you’re flossing? Do you find it hard to remember the last time that you flossed? You’re likely suffering from gingivitis, the mildest form of periodontal disease (a.k.a., gum disease). Although gingivitis is quite common, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it seriously. If left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis or even tooth loss. So, what causes gingivitis, and what can you do to treat the condition before it worsens?
What Causes Gingivitis?
The cause of gingivitis is typically pretty simple: poor oral hygiene. If you neglect your brushing and flossing routine or forgo dental appointments, your teeth and gums will reflect these choices. Plaque, an invisible, sticky film, will begin to build up on your teeth. Although plaque is present in every mouth, daily brushing and flossing remove it. If you allow it to form and fester, it will harden into tartar, which is more difficult to remove. In fact, tartar can only be removed through professional intervention.
When plaque and tartar are allowed to remain on the teeth, they irritate the gums and cause inflammation. This is why you may notice that your gums are swollen, red, or bleeding. Other symptoms of gingivitis include bad breath that doesn’t go away after brushing, sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks, and tenderness or pain when you chew food. If you notice that you have any symptoms of gingivitis, it’s important to schedule an appointment with your dentist quickly so that you can prevent the problem from escalating into periodontitis.
Although anyone can develop gingivitis, some people are more likely to develop it than others. According to the Mayo Clinic, the following characteristics increase your risk:
- Failing to maintain good oral hygiene
- Smoking or chewing tobacco
- Having dry mouth
- Being older in age
- Consuming a poor diet
- Having poorly fitted dental restorations
- Having crooked teeth
- Suffering from decreased immunity (may be caused by leukemia, HIV/AIDS, cancer treatment, etc.)
- Taking certain drugs (including phenytoin, some calcium channel blockers, etc.)
- Experiencing hormonal changes (which may be caused by pregnancy, a menstrual cycle, taking birth control pills, etc.)
- Having a family history of periodontitis
- Experiencing some medical conditions, including certain viral and fungal infections
Treating and Preventing Gingivitis
Now that you understand what causes gingivitis, you’re likely wondering about treatment options. Typically the treatment is to simply do what you should have been doing all along: taking excellent care of your oral health. Brush your teeth at least twice a day using a soft-bristled brush, and floss thoroughly at least once per day. Your dental hygienist can provide helpful tips and insights regarding how to brush and floss properly. In addition, visit your dentist every six months for a check-up and professional cleaning. In some cases, other treatments may be necessary as well, such as the following:
- Scaling and root planing, which removes plaque and tartar from your teeth above and below the gumline
- Dental restoration to fix or remove a crown, filling, or bridge that’s causing problems
- Antimicrobial mouth rinse may be prescribed to reduce harmful bacteria in the mouth
In addition, healthy lifestyle habits can prevent gingivitis. So, avoid tobacco products, limit your sugar intake, and control your blood sugar if you have diabetes. For more personalized advice, consult your dental team.
If you’re looking for an experienced, reliable, and friendly dentist near Springfield, Missouri, contact Wilkinson Dental. Dr. Wilkinson and his team will give you the personalized treatment you deserve using state-of-the-art technology. For exceptional and comprehensive dental care, schedule your first appointment today by calling 417-708-0556 or requesting an appointment online. We look forward to hearing from you!