Gingivitis is the milder form of gum disease, which is usually reversible with daily brushing and flossing, and regular cleaning by our dental hygienist. This form of gum disease does not include any loss of bone and tissue that hold teeth in place.
When gingivitis is not treated, it can advance to periodontitis. In periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form “pockets” that become infected. The body’s immune system fights the bacteria as the bacteria spreads and grows below the gum. Bacterial toxins and the body’s immune system start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. If not treated, the bones, gums, and tissue that support the teeth are destroyed. The teeth may eventually become loose and have to be removed.
- Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors associated with gum disease. Smoking can lower the chances of successful treatment.
- Hormonal changes in females. These changes can make gums more sensitive and make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
- Diabetes. People with diabetes are at higher risk for developing infections, including gum disease.
- Other illnesses. Diseases like cancer or HIV and their treatments can negatively affect the health of gums.
- Medications. Many prescription and over the counter medications can reduce the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on the mouth. Without enough saliva, the mouth is vulnerable to infections such as gum disease. Some medications can cause abnormal overgrowth of the gum tissue, which can make it difficult to keep teeth and gums clean.
- Genetic susceptibility. Some people are more prone to severe gum disease than others.
- Persistent bad breath (halitosis)
- Red or swollen gums
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Painful chewing or food stuck between teeth
- Foul taste in mouth
- Loose teeth or new gaps between teeth
- Sensitive teeth
- Receding gums or teeth that appear longer.
During your examination, your gums are checked for bleeding, swelling, and firmness. The teeth are checked for movement and sensitivity. Your bite is assessed. A full-mouth X-ray can help detect breakdown of bone surrounding your teeth.
Periodontal probing determines the severity of your disease. A probe is like a tiny ruler that is gently inserted into pockets around teeth. The deeper the pocket, the more severe the disease.
In healthy gums, the pockets measure less than 3mm and no bone loss appears on X-rays. Gums are tight against the teeth and have pink tips. Pockets that measure 3mm to mm indicate signs of disease. Tartar may be progressing below the gum line and some bone loss could be evident. Pockets that are 5mm or deeper indicate a serious condition that usually includes receding gums and a greater degree of bone loss.
Gum disease is usually preventable.
- Brush twice a day for at 2 minutes each time and floss daily. If you’re not sure whether you’re brushing or flossing properly, your dentist or dental hygienist can show you the best techniques.
- Always brush with toothpaste that contains fluoride. Daily mouth rinses containing fluoride are also recommended.
- Use a toothbrush with soft, polished bristles, as these are less likely to irritate or injure gum tissue. Be sure to replace your toothbrush at least every 3 to 4 months – a worn-out toothbrush can injure your gums.
- Eat a healthy diet – avoid snacks and junk foods packed with sugar that plaque-causing bacteria love to feed on.
- Don’t smoke! Cigarettes and chewing tobacco cause mouth irritation and changes that are very unhealthy for gums and teeth.
- Regular dental care is extremely important in helping to keep your mouth healthy. Visit us for routine care, especially cleaning, at least twice a year. Your dentist can remove calcified calculus that you cannot remove with brushing alone.
- Removal of the plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line of all your teeth. If you have some signs of gingivitis, your dentist may recommend that you return for future cleanings more often than twice a year.
- Recommendations for special toothpaste or mouth rinse that is specifically designed for gingivitis or tooth decay.
- Scaling and root planing (SRP) is the standard treatment for more severe cases and involves an intensive deep-cleaning, non-surgical method which “scrapes” the plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line. It also smoothes the surface of the root of the tooth, providing a clean surface which helps allow the gums to reattach to the teeth.
- For severe cases, a referral to a gum specialist may be required for more complex procedures.