What causes gingivitis?

Gingivitis is a form of periodontal disease. It is due to the harmful effects of plaque deposits. Bacteria produces sticky, colorless plaque on the teeth. Brushing and flossing will help eliminate plaque. However, plaque that is not removed will form tartar, a harder substance found on the teeth. Tartar harbors bacteria, which will make it easier for bacteria to invade your gums, causing gum disease.

Initially, bacteria from your tartar will cause inflammation of the gums. Gingivitis is seen as swelling and reddening of the gums. Gums bleed easily even during brushing of the teeth. Gingivitis is easily treated by improving your dental hygiene and regular cleaning from a dentist.

If left untreated, gingivitis will develop into periodontitis, a more serious type of infection. Gums pull back from the teeth and form shallow pockets of infection. Bacteria invades deeper into the tissues, causing your body's defense, the immune system, to respond. During their epic battle, your teeth become casualties from bacterial toxins and the body's own enzymes, causing them to break down. Damaged teeth become loose and may need to be removed.

How do I know I have gingivitis?

Common symptoms of gum disease include:

  • Bad breath
  • Swollen red gums
  • Gums tender to touch
  • Bleeding gums
  • Shiny gums

What are my treatment options?

If you exhibit any symptoms of gum disease, you should see your dentist right away. Treatment strategies depend on the severity of the condition. For most cases of gingivitis, treatment is relatively simple, including improving oral hygiene and dental cleaning. After dental cleaning, oral hygiene must be maintained.

If treated, bleeding and tenderness of the gums will decrease within 1 or 2 weeks after professional cleaning and careful oral hygiene.

Other measures that will help in the treatment of gingivitis include rinsing with warm saltwater or antibacterial rinses to reduce the gum swelling. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications may be use to relieve discomfort.

How can I prevent gingivitis?

The best way to prevent gingivitis is to eliminate the plaque that causes the problem. To do this, you need to strictly practice good oral hygiene. An individual can maintain the good condition of his/her teeth and gums by observing this regimen:

  • Brushing teeth properly at least twice a day or after every meal
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Flossing
  • Visiting the dentist regularly

Using anti-plaque or anti-tartar toothpaste or mouth rinse may be recommended by the dentist or dental hygienist. Lastly, regular visits to the dentist for professional teeth cleaning will remove any plaque on the teeth. You should do this every 6 months.