Gingivitis: What you need to know

Gingivitis, a periodontal disease, can diminish and harm your teeth and prevent you from wanting to...

Gingivitis, a periodontal disease, can diminish and harm your teeth and prevent you from wanting to show off your perfect smile. This gum disease can cause you to lose your teeth, and can even increase your chances of a heart attack or stroke.

This gum disease is nothing to take lightly. You may have heard your dentist discuss good oral hygiene to keep your teeth healthy. Sometimes daily life can place regular dental checkups and flossing on the back burner. However, making time for these dental essentials can prevent the gum disease from developing or becoming worse.

Signs and symptoms

Unfortunately, this gum disease is common. What's worse is you can start with a mild form of the periodontal disease and not know it. In fact, the first stages of the disease won't cause you any pain at all. You have to look for signs of the disease to catch it in time.

The symptoms and signs of the disease are easy to spot when you look for them. Diseased gums often have signs such as

  • Puffiness
  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • A receding gum line
  • Bleeding when you floss or brush
  • A color change in your gums from light pink to a dusky red

You also experience bad breath. This isn't bad breath that goes away. It is persistent. You can experience a bad taste in your mouth, too. This can cause everything you eat or drink to taste differently.

You may also notice that your teeth feel different when you bite down. If you have partial dentures, you may notice a change in the way they fit your gums. Your teeth may start to shift or loosen. Another sign of the gum disease is the formation of deep pockets between your gums and your teeth.

How the gum inflammation starts

This gum problem, also called gum inflammation, starts with plaque buildup. The bacteria in the plaque causes your gums to become inflamed and irritated. If the gum inflammation is caught in its early stages, your gums and the bone underneath should be fine. However, as the inflammation advances, the small areas between your gums and teeth become clogged with debris like plaque and food.

Your body does fight the bacteria as the debris spreads to the other teeth and areas of your gum. Since plaque is made of poisons and toxins, the enzymes involved in fighting the bacteria break down. The gum tissue and bone within the gums begins to deteriorate. Teeth are no longer anchored in place, and can begin to fall out. Further gum disease continues, destroying your gums.

The factors that cause gum inflammation and disease

Plaque is the primary cause of this gum inflammation. However, overall poor oral hygiene habits also exacerbate to the problem. These habits often include not regularly brushing or flossing. When plaque stays on your teeth longer than three days, it starts to harden underneath your gum line and becomes tartar. Once your teeth become caked with tartar brushing, and flossing won't help. A dentist must remove the tartar buildup, which can involve painful scraping.

The longer tartar stays on your teeth and underneath the gum the more your gums become irritated and inflamed. You may not notice it until your gums become swollen or bleed.

While plaque causes this gum disease, many other factors, such as diabetes and tobacco use, contribute to the inflammation. For women, hormonal changes like pregnancy, menstruation or oral contraceptive use can increase the risk of the dental problem. Other risk factors include

  • Fungal infections
  • Dry mouth
  • Substance abuse
  • Decreased immunity
  • Age
  • Certain medications
  • Poor nutrition

Prevention and treatment

If you have gingivitis or think you do, contact an Atlanta dentist as soon as possible. He or she will check your teeth and gums for any signs of the gum disease. If your dentist confirms you have this gum inflammation, he or she can treat the problem. Professional dental care includes cleaning to remove all the tartar and plaque from your teeth and gums.

You must do your part, too. This consists of going to regular check-ups and cleanings ,and improved oral hygiene. With prompt and continuous care, this gum condition is reversible. However, you must follow your dentist's instructions and continue to floss at least once a day and brush your teeth.

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