What is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is a form of gum disease that can cause damage to the gums and the teeth. It is known to cause irritation, redness and swelling (inflammation) of the gums around the base of the teeth.

Gingivitis Causes

The main cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene. Plaque is an invisible, sticky film composed mainly of bacteria that grow on the teeth. The buildup of plaque and bacteria causes the gums to become inflamed and it bleeds while brushing. This Plaque has to be removed daily by brushing and flossing. Gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, if left untreated.
It has been seen that in women, the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy, menopause, menstrual cycle or use of birth control pills also make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
Diseases like diabetes, cancer and AIDS can also affect the condition of the gums. The medications used to treat these diseases can affect the normal oral health by reducing the flow of saliva making the mouth dry. Saliva actually helps in protecting the teeth and gums.
Gingivitis has been found to be caused by the patient’s bad habits like smoking drinking alcohol etc., which makes it harder for the gum tissues to repair on its own.
Family history of dental diseases also makes the chance of development of gingivitis more.

Signs and symptoms of Gingivitis

The symptoms of gingivitis are usually non-specific and might show up in the gum tissue signs of inflammation and the other symptoms include:

  • Swollen gums
  • Bright red or purple gums
  • Tender and painful Gums
  • Gums that bleed while brushing.
  • Bad breath

Diagnosis of Gingivitis

The dentist will have a visual exam to check for bleeding or swelling of gums. Along with this, he/she might also check for any teeth movement and sensitivity and also for proper teeth alignment.
The dentist will also examine the amount of plaque in the oral cavity. A series of x-rays might be taken to look for any bone loss or signs of periodontitis.
The gingiva might be probed to measure the pocket depth of the groove between the gums and the teeth. Healthy patients usually have this depth between 1-3 mm while patients with gum diseases will have deeper pocket depths of more than 4mm.

Complications of Gingivitis

Some of the complications that can arise from Gingivitis are:

  • Recurrence of gingivitis.
  • Periodontitis: If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis. Periodontics is a gum disease that spreads to underlying tissue and bone leading to tooth loss.
  • Infection or abscess of the gingiva or the jaw bones
  • Trench mouth: Trench mouth, also known as necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (NUG) is a severe form of gingivitis that causes painful, infected, bleeding gums and ulceration of gums. Treatments for NUG may include antibiotics, painkillers and different types of mouthwash.
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Gingivitis Treatment

The dentist usually will recommend Professional dental cleaning as a treatment for gingivitis. The therapy is directed at elimination of plaque and reduction of oral bacteria. The treatment options include scaling and root planing.
Scaling eliminates tartar and the bacteria over the tooth surfaces and gums while Root planning gets rid of the bacterial products produced by inflammation. The root surface is leveled to depress future buildup of tartar and bacteria, and allows proper healing. The procedure is done using instruments, a laser or an ultrasonic device.
If there are misaligned teeth or poorly fitting crowns, bridges or other dental restorations, the dentist will first fix them to prevent gingivitis.

How do you get rid of gingivitis ? What kills gingivitis?

Gingivitis can be prevented through the following preventive measures:

  • Regular oral hygiene that includes daily brushing and flossing.
  • Hydrogen peroxide, saline, alcohol or chlorhexidine mouthwashes are also recommended.
  • Daily care. It is necessary that the patient maintain good oral hygiene at home.

Authored By Dr Sanjay N - Orthodontics & Dentofacial Orthopaedics, Bangalore

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