Gingivitis is a gum disease caused by bacterial infection of the tissues surrounding the gums and teeth. The growth of bacteria in these areas is mainly triggered by the lack of proper oral hygiene. The sugary and starchy components present in our food react with the bacteria present inside the mouth to form a soft, sticky, colourless film, known as plaque. Regular brushing and flossing helps to eliminate this plaque. In case it is not cleaned properly, it hardens to form tartar, which becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.
Hormonal changes can also be responsible for gingivitis during pregnancy. Other factors that can contribute towards gingivitis are poor nutrition and side effects of medicines. Early signs of this disease are not painful, but as it progresses, the gums may hurt a lot.
Causes of Gingivitis
- Aggressive tooth brushing
- Blood disorders like leukaemia
- Deficiency in vitamins especially Vitamin C
- Dry mouth
- Formation of plaque that can cause tooth decay and gum infection
- Hormonal changes (especially during pregnancy, puberty, and menopause) which makes the blood tissues in the gums to be more vulnerable to bacterial infection
- Incorrect dental prosthetic
- Malocclusion (improper positioning of the upper and lower teeth when the jaw is closed)
- Medications that can cause gum disease such as anti-seizure drugs
- Mouth breathing that leaves the gums unprotected and can cause irritation and inflammation
- Overlapping, crooked, or rotated teeth
- Poor dental hygiene
- Poor nutrition and eating habits that increase plaque formation
- Stress that can cause damage to the immune system
- Smoking or use of tobacco products
- Reaction to oral contraceptives
- Weakened circulation due to diabetes mellitus which affects the ability of the gums to heal
The bacteria that grow in tartar tend to irritate the gum at the base of the teeth, called gingiva, which in turn, gives rise to a number of annoying symptoms.
Diagnosis of Gingivitis
- Gingivitis is commonly known as bleeding gums. Therefore, one of the most obvious signs is that the gums start bleeding easily. It is a particularly common occurrence while brushing or flossing.
- Red and swollen gums is another clear sign of gingivitis. If the gums are badly inflamed, then they turn soft and puffy. Occasionally, the gums may become extremely tender and sensitive.
- When the gums are healthy, then their tissue is firm, and they are pale pink in colour. If infected, the colour changes to bright red or purplish red.
- Receding gums is another problem faced by people suffering from gingivitis.
- Sometimes, mouth sores may develop on the gum surface.
- All the above mentioned symptoms could be accompanied by bad breath, or a bad taste in the mouth due to the growth of bacteria in the mouth.
Based on the signs and symptoms you show or tell your dentist, he or she will usually do an examination of the gums for any swelling, bleeding, and also checking the teeth for movement and any sensitivity. To be able to determine the severity of the disease, a periodontal probe (a tiny ruler that is inserted into teeth pockets) is used - the deeper the pockets, the more serious the disease. Your bite will also be assessed and full mouth X-rays will be done to determine the level of underlying bone and if any bone is lost.
After the examination, the dentist or periodontist will give recommendations on how the gingivitis can be treated because there are different treatment options depending on the stage or severity of the disease. However, your dentist may also recommend a medical evaluation to determine any health problems
if the cause of the gingivitis is still not clear.
If you observe any signs of gingivitis, you must visit a dentist as soon as possible for proper treatment. The first step of treatment is deep dental cleaning to remove plaque and tartar hidden under the gums. Various specialized dental instruments are used for this purpose, and the technique is called scaling. It may cause some discomfort as the gums are already tender because of tartar build up. Sometimes, misaligned teeth or poorly fitted crowns make it difficult to clean the plaque with brushing. If any such problem is responsible for causing gingivitis, then it needs to be corrected. The treatment should be followed by adequate dental care at home. Your dentist may even suggest some changes in brushing and flossing techniques. He may also prescribe an antiseptic mouth rinse to control any further growth of bacteria.
Diet is also an important factor in the cure of this disease. You should eat crispy fibrous foods, such as apples and carrots that can massage the gums well and keep them healthy. Rich sources of vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, can also cure gingivitis. You must stay away from sugary foods and high fat foods because they promote plaque formation.
The signs of gingivitis are often mild and we tend to ignore them. If left untreated, then it can lead to a more serious form of gum disease and even tooth loss. Recurrence of the signs can be prevented with good oral care. Brush your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush twice a day. Regular flossing is also important as it removes trapped food particles from those areas where a toothbrush cannot reach. Thus, the chances of plaque formation are reduced to a great extent.