Take your dentist’s advice seriously when he tells you to brush your teeth twice a day and to observe proper oral hygiene, as this is the surest way of protecting your gums from gingivitis.  Gingivitis is a form of gum disease that destroys tissues that hold teeth, the periodontal ligaments, and the tooth sockets. It occurs due to the long-term accumulation of plaque deposits on your teeth. If you do not remove plaque through brushing, it turns into a hard deposit called tartar or calculus that becomes trapped at the base of the tooth. Both plaque and tartar irritate and inflame the gums. Bacteria and the toxins produced cause the gums to become infected, swollen and tender, and at this point you are declared to have gingivitis.

Gingivitis is the most common and mild form of oral/dental disease. Because gingivitis is rarely painful in its early stages, it often goes unnoticed until severe irritation or receding of gums occurs.

Common causes of gingivitis…

Build-up of bacterial plaque on the teeth. These bacteria release toxins that cause an inflammatory response on your gum. This happens when you do not brush your teeth properly.

Build-up of calculus. If plaque is not removed, it forms a hard mass commonly called tartar, which traps bacteria that cause gingivitis.

Hormonal fluctuations. When hormones fluctuate during pregnancy, menopause and menstruation they make gums more sensitive and allow gingivitis to develop.

Some medication. Any medication that dries up your mouth can affect oral health because this dryness lessens the flow of saliva. Saliva washes away food debris from your teeth leaving bacteria with nothing to act on.

Family history of dental disease. This can be a contributing factor for the development of gingivitis.

Bad habits. These include smoking and poor oral hygiene as they make it hard for gum tissues to repair.

Signs that you have gingivitis…

Do you constantly spot blood on your toothbrush or on your gum after brushing teeth? Bleeding gums is the most prominent sign that your gum has been infected with gingivitis. Other symptoms include:

  • Gums that appear bright red or red-purple in colour, are tender but painless when touched.
  • Mouth sores and swollen gums.
  • Gums that are unusually shinny in appearance or even gums that are receded or are pulled away from your teeth, giving your teeth an elongated appearance.
  • Some people may experience recurring bad breath or a bad taste in their mouth.
  • Formation of deep pockets between teeth and gums.
  • Loose or shifting teeth.
  • Your teeth appear disorganised in their arrangement, which can easily be confused for partial dentures.

Treating gingivitis…

Like toothache, it is common for most people suffering from gingivitis to seek medical attention when the condition becomes severe and the infection has greatly affected their gums and misaligned their teeth. The procedure used to treat the infection is usually painful and the dentist will make your gum numb before working on the teeth.

This involves cleaning and scraping your teeth to remove the tartar and bacterial plaque deposits from the teeth and below the gum line through scaling. The dentist then smoothens any rough surfaces on your teeth, such as the rough ridges through root planning. Finally, he will polish the teeth using abrasive paste applied to a vibrating instrument with a rubber cap. Polishing produces a smooth surface, making it temporarily harder for plaque to adhere to the teeth.

Antibiotics may be prescribed in case of severe active infection. They come in various forms such as mouthwash rinses, dissolving gels, threads, or microchips that are placed into the periodontal pockets.

Published on April 2014