The Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention of Gingivitis

What is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease, or periodontal disease. If identified early, gum disease can be managed and prevented with professional treatment and through proper oral hygiene. However, if left untreated, periodontal disease can progress into a more serious condition, destroying the teeth, jaw bone, and gums. Because tartar accumulation and infected gums can break down the supportive structures teeth need to stay upright and stable, advanced gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults.

What causes gingivitis?

Gingivitis is most often caused by poor oral hygiene, though it can develop in almost anyone. Improper cleaning and care can allow the build-up of plaque, tartar, and bacteria that eats away at the teeth, gum, and underlying tissue.

Here’s how gingivitis forms:

Bacteria feed on the residual sugars and starches left in your mouth after you eat or drink, creating a sticky film on your teeth called plaque. Plaque that is not removed during daily cleanings hardens into tartar, which harbors more bacteria, makes the teeth even harder to clean, and begins to irritate the gums (gingiva). If the plaque and tartar are allowed to remain on the teeth, the gingiva becomes swollen and inflamed, leading to bleeding gums, tooth decay or cavities, advanced periodontitis (gum disease), or even tooth loss.

What are the symptoms of gingivitis?

The early stages of gum disease go largely unnoticed by most people until they are in their 30s or 40s, so your dentist will look for signs of gingivitis during dental cleaning and checkups.

Common symptoms of gingivitis:

  • Swollen or puffy gums
  • Dark red gums
  • Gums that bleed easily when you brush or floss
  • Receding gums
  • Plaque or tartar accumulation along the gumline
  • Gums that are tender or sensitive
  • Pain when chewing
  • Sensitive or loose teeth
  • Persistent bad breath

How is gingivitis treated? Can gingivitis be cured?

Gingivitis can usually be reversed, though it can return if your oral hygiene deteriorates again.

Treatment methods for gingivitis include:

  • Deep cleaning (scaling and root planning) to remove the plaque.
  • Medicated mouth rinses, antibiotic gel, or oral antibiotics in conjunction with deep cleaning or surgical treatments to control bacteria.
  • Flap surgery to remove tartar from deep pockets under the gums. Part of the gum is lifted to remove deep tartar deposits, then sutured back in place around the tooth.
  • Bone and tissue grafts to restore areas of recession or loss and regrow bone and connective tissue with natural or synthetic bone or tissue.

How can I prevent gingivitis?

Effective methods to prevent gingivitis are:

  • Practice good oral hygiene. Brush twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Clean both your teeth and gums with small, gentle circles, avoiding brushing too hard. Daily flossing helps remove buildup from in between the teeth and along the gumlines, preventing the accumulation that causes inflammation and infection. You can also use a mouth rinse to flush out bacteria from in between your teeth, but remember that a mouth rinse is not a substitute for brushing and flossing.
  • See your dentist regularly. Regular six-month cleanings and checkups by a dental professional add another layer of protection to your teeth and gums. A dental hygienist will use special tools and equipment to scrape off any plaque or tartar that your toothbrush either couldn’t reach or couldn’t get off, and he or she can floss the harder to reach places in between your teeth. Routine checkups also give your dentist a chance to evaluate the health and condition of your teeth and gums, identify any signs or symptoms of gingivitis, and provide you with any guidance for further preventative care.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Diets low in sugar and starches can help minimize the amount of food bacteria has to live on inside your mouth. Drinking lots of water and eating lots of water-rich fruits and vegetables can help keep bacteria flushed from your mouth.

Treating gingivitis with Dental Depot DFW

Dental Depot DFW is passionate about prevention. That’s why we make it easy for you and your family to get the quality dental care you need to maintain healthy teeth and gums. With Saturday appointments, flexible scheduling, and the option to schedule everyone in your family at the same time, Dental Depot DFW helps you get in and out and on with your busy life.

From routine cleanings and checkups to treatment for conditions like gingivitis, Dental Depot DFW has you covered with a full staff of experts including dentists and dental hygienists, oral surgeons, and periodontal specialists at all four of our DFW locations. Schedule an appointment or find your nearest office.

Jeff Hester is owner of Hester Designs. You may recognize some of Jeff’s work for clients like Tinker Federal Credit Union, Myriad Gardens, Canterbury Chorus Society, Ronald McDonald House OKC, and many others. Jeff considers himself an organizer of visual communication and systems. Jeff uses art, design, programming, and observation to create clear communications and tell interesting stories. Over the last two years Jeff has taken a deep dive into Accessibility and design and usability techniques to help make his designs more inclusive to all people.

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