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Have you seen blood in the sink when brushing your teeth recently? If so, that bleeding may be one of the first symptoms of gingivitis. it’s estimated that over 35.7 million Americans suffer from gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to more severe forms of periodontal disease, and eventually, loss of teeth. Luckily, however, the condition is reversible, especially when caught and treated early. To understand gingivitis treatment, it is first important to note what gingivitis really is.
What is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease (gum disease), a condition which can affect the gums, periodontal ligaments, and tooth sockets. Generally, gingivitis is a bacterial infection that is limited to the gum area. There are two main forms of gingivitis: plaque-induced gingivitis, and non-plaque induced gingivitis.
- Plaque-induced gingivitis is the most common form of the condition. This is when plaque, a sticky material consisting of bacteria, food debris, and mucus, accumulates on the teeth. If ignored for a long period of time, the plaque mineralizes into tartar, a hard white substance that makes the plaque more difficult to remove. As the plaque and tartar remain on the teeth, they begin to irritate, inflame, and infect the gums, triggering an autoimmune response which leads to the most common sign of gingivitis, bleeding gums.
- Non-plaque induced gingivitis, though much less common, can also occur when other factors irritate or injure your gums. Overtly vigorous brushing, aggressive flossing, athletic injuries or food allergies can all injure your teeth and gums, leading to gingivitis. Other systemic conditions such as pregnancy, diabetes, and diseases that decrease immunity can also be risk factors.
The best treatment for gingivitis is dependent on the cause. For plaque-induced gingivitis, the solution may be as simple as increased or improved brushing and flossing. Your dentist may suggest periodontal therapy or deep cleaning as a gingivitis treatment, which will clean away the bacteria and allow the mouth to begin to heal. The first thing that your dentist will do in treating gingivitis is remove the plaque and tartar in a process called scaling. If gingivitis is not treated and is ignored in its early stages, the inflammation that causes the gums to bleed will work its way down the bottom of the tooth, causing a “periodontal pocket”. Within the pocket, bacteria run wild and continue to do damage to the teeth and gums.
In conjunction with scaling, a deep cleaning will include root planing to assist in treating gingivitis. Root planing is a procedure in which the surfaces of the root are smoothened, and any infected tooth surface is removed. If a deep cleaning is required, the scaling and root planing are usually done at the same time, allowing the dentist to smooth away any rough infected area of the tooth and allow the gums to begin healing. In order to properly heal from any gingivitis treatment, and to prevent any further damage to the teeth and gums, your dentist may recommend:
- An electric toothbrush, which allows one to be more thorough than an analog brush
- A soft-bristled toothbrush for sensitive gums
- More frequent brushing–at least 2 times a day
- Holding your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle and brushing against the gumline
- An antiseptic, anti-plaque mouthwash
- Fluoride toothpaste containing an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredient
- A healthy diet with increased Vitamin C and calcium
Depending on the circumstances, it may be necessary to address other underlying causes in order to fully combat gingivitis. However, good oral hygiene and frequent visits to your dentist will never hurt.
The biggest indication of gingivitis is red, puffy gums which bleed when the patient brushes his or her teeth. In severe cases, the gums may be a deep magenta or even purple color. Knowing the warning signs of and seeking gingivitis treatment can save you from a much more severe case down the road. Some additional symptoms of gingivitis include:
- Receding gums
- Sensitive gums which are painful to the touch
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Shiny appearance of gums
How We Can Help
If you suspect that you have gingivitis, it’s important to address it right away, and seek treatment before your symptoms become more severe. The earlier gingivitis is diagnosed, the more painless and quick the treatment will be. At Friendly Dentistry, we have the experience, equipment, and personalized care necessary to treat your gingivitis and keep your smile bright.