What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums, usually caused by a bacterial infection. If left untreated, it can become a more serious infection known as periodontitis. Gingivitis and periodontitis are major causes of tooth loss in adults, according to the American Dental Association. Dental infections can add up, with both your health and your wallet at stake. According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, Americans spent an estimated $117 billion on dental services in 2015.
What causes gingivitis?
Your gums actually attach to the teeth at a lower point than the gum edges that we see. This forms a small space called a sulcus. Food and plaque can get trapped in this space and cause a gum infection or gingivitis.
Plaque is a thin film of bacteria. It constantly forms on the surface of your teeth. As plaque advances, it hardens and becomes tartar. You can develop an infection when plaque extends below the gum line.
Left unchecked, gingivitis can cause the gums to separate from the teeth. This can cause injury to the soft tissue and bone supporting the teeth. The tooth may become loose and unstable. If infection progresses, you may ultimately lose your tooth or need a dentist to remove it.
Risk factors for gingivitis
The following are risk factors for gingivitis:
What are the symptoms of gingivitis?
Many people aren’t aware that they have gingivitis. It’s possible to have gum disease without any symptoms. However, the following can be symptoms of gingivitis:
How is gingivitis diagnosed?
During a dental exam, your gums will be probed with a small ruler. This probing is a way to check for inflammation. It also measures any pockets around your teeth. A normal depth is 1 to 3 millimeters. Your dentist also may order X-rays to check for bone loss.
Talk to your dentist about risk factors for gum disease as well as your symptoms. This can help diagnose your gingivitis. If gingivitis is present, you may be referred to a periodontist. A periodontist is a dentist who specializes in the treatment of gum diseases.
How is gingivitis treated?
You must practice proper oral hygiene to treat gingivitis. You should also cut back on any smoking and control your diabetes. Other treatments include:
There are several techniques that can be used to deep clean your teeth without surgery. They all remove plaque and tarter to prevent gum irritation:
A number of medications can be used to treat gingivitis:
How can gingivitis be prevented?
Gingivitis can be prevented by proper and consistent oral hygiene. Make certain to eat a balanced diet and visit the dentist regularly. Brush your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste. Floss your teeth every day.
Health conditions associated with gingivitis
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research report that gingivitis is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and lung disease. It also increases the risk of a woman giving birth to a premature or low birth weight infant. Although gingivitis is associated with these health conditions, gingivitis hasn’t been shown to cause them. The connection between them will require more research.