Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums and is usually associated with bacterial infections. Generally, it precedes gum disease (periodontitis) but may not always progress to periodontitis. If the condition is not treated, it can lead to the separation of the gums from the teeth and tooth loss.
People with mild forms of gingivitis exhibit only mild symptoms which are difficult to identify. The symptoms may include:
Gingivitis results from excessive plaque deposits on the teeth. Plaque is a sticky film which builds up on the teeth due to the interaction of bacteria with food in the mouth. If the plaque is not regularly removed by brushing and flossing, it gets collected under the gum line and turns into a harder substance known as tartar. This can irritate the gum line. Prolonged periods of gingival irritation can lead to gingivitis.
Hormonal changes which occur during pregnancy, menstruation, or with the use of contraceptive pills may increase the sensitivity of the gums and lead to gingivitis.
The following factors increase the likelihood of a person to develop gingivitis:
If proper treatment is not taken for gingivitis, it can lead to periodontitis. A severe form of gingivitis known as necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (NUG) or trench mouth which causes pain, bleeding from the gums, ulcerations and infection may also develop if gingivitis is not managed properly.
Gum inflammation present for prolonged periods can lead to respiratory diseases, stroke, rheumatoid arthritis, and coronary artery disease.
Sometimes the bacteria can enter the blood circulation and affect the lungs, kidneys, heart and other parts of the body.
Consult the dentist as soon as the signs and symptoms of gingivitis are noticed. This helps to prevent the progression of the disease.
Diagnosis involves taking the dental and medical history of the patient. This is followed by a physical examination of the gums, teeth, tongue and mouth to check for the signs of inflammation or plaque. Examination of the gums includes probing them with a small ruler. This helps the dentist to check for inflammation and determine the depth of the pockets around the teeth. If the depth is more than 3 millimeters, it indicates gum disease.
Gingivitis usually resolves by practicing good oral hygiene such as a timely brushing and flossing of the teeth and using mouthwashes.
In general, treatment of gingivitis is carried out by a periodontist (specialist in treating gum diseases). Treatment options include:
Professional dental cleaning
It includes procedures such as scaling and root planing. Scaling removes the tartar and plaque from the surfaces of the teeth and gums. Root planing removes the plaque, prevents further development of plaque and tartar, and smoothens the root surfaces. This helps in resolving gingivitis in most of the patients.
It may be possible to prevent gingivitis by taking the below measures:
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