Gingivitis is a type of gum disease that leads to sore gums and caused by plaque buildup. Plaque is a sticky film, comprised of bacteria, that is found on the teeth and gums. The bacteria can produce toxins that irritate the gums. When plaque hardens into tartar, it can’t be removed with brushing.
If your gums are swollen, deep red, or bleed when you are brushing or flossing, you may have gingivitis. Smelly breath, gums pulling away from the teeth, and tender gums are also signs.
Gingivitis Causes and Prevention
The most frequent cause of gingivitis is the neglect of oral hygiene. Other things that can increase your risk include:
- Tobacco use
- Growing old
- Mouth dryness
- Inferior nutrition
- Fillings, crowns, bridges, implants and/or dentures that no longer fit
- Crooked teeth that make spaces you can’t clean easily
- Health conditions that lower immunity
- Some drugs
- Changes in hormone levels
- Viral and fungal infections
Good oral health habits, such as brushing at least twice a day (preferably after every meal) for at least two minutes each time, flossing daily, and getting semi-annual dental checkups can help prevent and reverse gingivitis.
Using an electric toothbrush, replacing your toothbrush every 3 months, and refraining from smoking, chewing tobacco and eating sugary foods or drinking sugary drinks are also good steps to take.
Eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals can also help prevent gum disease and other oral conditions. Leafy greens, cheese, yogurt, carrots, celery and almonds can all help protect your smile.
Why Gingivitis Is Serious
If not treated at an early stage, gingivitis can evolve into disease (periodontitis) that affects tissue and bone under the gum. This can result in tooth loss eventually, as the gums pull away from the teeth. The bone and connective tissues break down, and the tooth may eventually become loose and have to be pulled.
Repeated gingiva inflammation has thought to affect respiration, blood glucose, coronary health, brain health and the joints. Some researchers have suggested that periodontal bacteria may enter the bloodstream through the gums, impacting the heart, lungs and other body parts.
A severe form of gingivitis called trench mouth leads to infections that cause the gums to bleed and develop ulcers. Trench mouth is not found often in the Western world, but is still all too common in poorer countries where people cannot afford to eat healthily.
You can treat early-stage gingivitis at home, if you address the plaque before it becomes tartar.
Antibacterial toothpastes and antibacterial mouthwashes can be effective. You can also make your own homemade mouthwashes or topical treatments.
Try the following:
- A salt water rinse. Salt is a natural disinfectant that helps your body heal itself. Salt water may also soothe inflamed gums, help ease pain, reduce bacteria, remove particles of food and relieve bad breath.
- A lemongrass oil, aloe vera juice, tee tree oil, sage or guava leaf mouthwash.
- Oil pulling with coconut or armedadi oil. This is a technique that involves swishing oil around in your mouth for 20 to 30 minutes to reduce harmful bacteria, eliminate toxins, and improve overall oral health. It has recently become more popular in the West, and has been used for thousands of years in Indian Ayurvedic medicine.
- Topical treatments made with cloves or turmeric.
When To Call A Professional
See your oral surgeon, doctor or dentist if you have severe tooth pain, extremely bad breath, gums that bleed profusely, or extremely swollen or inflamed gums.
Your dentist may clean your teeth, and refer you to a periodontist. The dental hygienist can show you how to brush and floss to keep your gums healthy. You may also need additional cleanings sooner than your next regular dental visit.
Here at Wilmington Oral Surgery, we treat gingivitis with chlorhexidine rinses and fluoride toothpaste. Once the infection has progressed, antibiotics may be needed to kill the bacteria.