Gingivitis is a disease of the gum. The gum is also called gingiva in the world of dentistry where everything seems to have a different name. It is swelling and redness of the gums of the teeth – in order words, gingivitis is a disease that causes the gums to be inflamed. Gums affected by gingivitis usually bleed during brushing of the teeth or at some other times. Gingivitis is a more common disease than you think. Research from the ADA says about half the world’s adult population have gingivitis. If you are an adult and you live on this planet, then there is a 50% chance that you have gingivitis, you just may not know it yet. In this article, we are going to talk more about what gingivitis is, the causes of gingivitis, what would happen if you do not treat it, what puts you at risk of gingivitis, how you can know if you have gingivitis, and how you can prevent yourself from having gingivitis.
What is gingivitis?
As we earlier said, gingivitis is a disease of the gum that causes redness in swelling of the gums which in other words is known as inflammation of the gums. In addition to this, the gums bleed during brushing. Gingivitis is a very mild and harmless disease itself and if found out on time, it can be reversed. However, this does not mean you should not treat gingivitis if you have it. If you do not treat gingivitis, it will turn to periodontitis which is a more serious form of gingivitis. At this stage, the damage to your tooth is irreversible and you are most likely going to lose that tooth.
Causes of gingivitis
The tooth is like a tree, or a building and your gum is like the ground. Just because the gum is called “gum” does not mean it is an actual gum which glues the tooth to the mouth. Just like a building, the tooth has foundations. Some parts of the tooth go deep down into the gum. The tooth does not directly interact with the gum as this would make chewing quite painful. So, the deeper part of the tooth is surrounded by the periodontal ligament to give it good lubrication and also to strengthen the foundation. Gingivitis is caused by a build-up of plaque in the teeth which are thin films which contain lots of bacteria. It looks just like the whitish film you see on Petri dishes when they are growing bacteria. If you do not remove this plaque by practicing proper hygiene, they would harden to form tartar which is also known as calculus. You would usually need to see the dentist to remove it at this stage. The more this stays around your gums, the more they irritate your gums till they become reddish and swollen, and bleed easily when you brush. At this stage you have gingivitis. If you still refuse to take care of your teeth when you have gingivitis, the plaque will spread to the roots and foundation of your tooth where it meets the periodontal ligaments. This will lead to inflammation (swelling and redness) of the periodontal ligaments. At this stage, you have periodontitis which is a more serious irreversible dental disease. The foundation of your tooth has been destroyed and it is only a matter of time till you lose that tooth – or all your teeth if periodontitis affects all your teeth. In addition to the build-up of plaque, one other factor that can either increase or reduce the chances of gingivitis worsening to periodontitis is your genetic makeup which can influence the way your gums and periodontal ligaments react to plaque buildup.
Risk factors for gingivitis
Now that we know what causes gingivitis, ask yourself this question – “am I putting myself at risk of having gingivitis?” Make no mistake, gingivitis affects half of the adult population in the world currently. This means that a lot of people do things which put them at risk of having gingivitis. This also means that there is a 50% chance of you having gingivitis and this gets worse as you get older. If you want to effectively prevent yourself from having gingivitis, you have to know what puts you at risk of having it. This is important in finding out ways to mitigate these risks.
The first risk is your genetics. You actually cannot do much about this, but if you notice that any of your blood relatives like your dad, mom or siblings have gingivitis. It would be a good idea to start paying more attention to your oral hygiene and to stop other things that can put you at risk. Another risk factor is diabetes. Keep those blood sugar levels low and watch your diet. another is your diet. Sugar-filled junk food and carbonated drinks can feed bacteria in plaques and make them grow until they cause gingivitis. Stress and diseases that suppress the immune system like HIV/AIDS make it easy for plaque to grow as less white blood cells are available to keep the bacteria in check. Drugs that suppress the immune system like corticosteroids, carbimazole, and drugs used to prevent graft rejection can worsen plaque. Smoking and poor oral hygiene can also lead to the formation of plaque which can, in turn, lead to gingivitis. Viral infections in the mouth like herpes can also cause gingivitis.
How do I know if I have gingivitis?
The symptoms of gingivitis are quite simple. If you notice that you often bleed during brushing, you should check your teeth in the mirror. If you notice plaques which are whitish films at the bottom of the teeth, swollen and reddish gums, then see a dentist, you may have gingivitis. This is just a guide however to give you an insight into gingivitis. Do not try to diagnose it yourself, however. Always see a dentist for proper diagnosis and care.
How can I prevent gingivitis?
Once you know what is putting you at risk of having gingivitis, you know how to prevent it. We would give you some tips you can use in order to prevent gingivitis.
Practice good oral hygiene:
The most common factor for developing plaques which can lead to gingivitis is poor hygiene. This is a very easy risk factor and perhaps the most important risk factor to modify. If you are still confused about oral hygiene, you can see your dentist for education on oral hygiene. Six-months studies show that educating people about oral hygiene slightly but significantly reduces the chances of them having gingivitis. This means that just reading this article will reduce your chances of having gingivitis slightly since we are basically educating you on oral hygiene. You would have to do some hygiene work if you want to seriously reduce your chances of having gingivitis. One of the first tips is to get an electric power brush if you can afford one. Studies show that electric brushes may be more effective than manual brushes in removing plaques which can cause gingivitis. Although, manual brushes are also effective and the difference is small (although significant). However, the problem is that studies find it difficult to confirm this because there are so many different types of electric brushes and it is difficult to test all of them against manual brushes. But electric brushes are slightly better anyway and are just as safe as normal brushes. We recommend you brush at least twice a day. As for flossing, while many people recommend it, studies do not seem to show any evidence as to whether it is good or not for preventing gingivitis. Interdental brushes seem to be better than flossing but its effect is modest in removing plaque. However, flossing or the use of interdental brushes to remove food substances between the teeth is still a good way to get those food particles your toothbrushes cannot get off and it is good to do it at least once daily. Antiplaque mouthwashes in addition to brushing are also effective in removing plaques according to studies. What we are saying from all these is that
- Get educated from your dentist on oral hygiene
- There is no substitute for brushing – use an electric power brush if you can afford one as studies show them to be more effective than manual brushes. Manual brushes will still work fine though. Brush twice daily.
- Use antiplaque mouthwashes which antiplaque agents like chlorhexidine, triclosan, or essential oils. Studies show them to be effective when combined with brushing. Use them after brushing twice daily.
- Flossing and interdental brushes are effective for removing plaque, but flossing may not be effective for preventing gingivitis. However, they are still good options for removing food items between the tooth. Interdental brushes are a better option than dental flosses in preventing gingivitis. Do this once daily
- There is very little evidence in using painkillers (anti-inflammatory drugs) in gingivitis.
Avoid the avoidable risk factors:
In addition to practicing good oral hygiene, you should also avoid other risk factors that put you at risk. If you have a disease like diabetes, HIV, herpes and so on, work closely with your doctor to put the disease under control. If you are on any medications that put you at risk, have a discussion with your doctors about the risks and benefits of using the drugs. This will help you and your doctor decide what is best for you. If you are smoking and you want to prevent gingivitis along with a host of other health issues that come with smoking, it may be a good time to quit smoking. You can look up a smoking cessation clinic around you. Try to cut down on those junk foods. They do not do you any good as they feed the bacteria in the plaque which cause gingivitis and periodontitis.
Visit the dentist:
Finally, remember to always visit our dentist in lake forest ca once or twice in a year. This is important as we can help you detect gingivitis early and also educate you on the prevention of gingivitis.