Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums and the initial stage of gum disease. Approximately seventy-five percent of Americans will experience some form of gum disease at some point in their life.
What Causes Gingivitis?
The direct cause of gingivitis is plaque build-up. Plaque is the soft, sticky, colorless film of bacteria that is constantly growing on the teeth and gums. If plaque is not removed then it produces toxins that can cause irritation to the gum tissue. If caught at this early stage, then the damage can be reversed. Over time plaque hardens to become tartar and dips below the gumline. This can cause an infection of the gums. If it is untreated, then gingivitis can become periodontitis which can cause the gums to separate from the teeth. This leads to injury of the soft tissue and bone supporting the teeth causing permanent damage to the teeth and jaw.
Signs of Gingivitis
The key signs of gingivitis include:
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Bleeding gums
- Gums have pulled away from the teeth
- Recurring bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, talk to your dentist to know which stage of gingivitis you may have.
How to Prevent Gingivitis
The early stage of gingivitis can be managed, prevented and treated. Some of the common ways to do so are:
Factors that may increase your risk of gingivitis include:
Smoking or chewing tobacco
Poor fitting dental appliances
Certain medications (oral contraceptives, steroids, anticonvulsants, calcium channel blockers, and chemotherapy)
To help prevent gingivitis be sure to schedule regular six-month dental checkups with your dentist.