Gingivitis is a mild yet very common gum disease that has recorded over a million cases per year. This disease that ultimately results from poor oral hygiene happens when plague, a sticky film that naturally occurs but contains bacteria, builds up on teeth and causes the inflammation of the gum and its surrounding tissues, because the toxins produced from plague irritate the gums.
Although Gingivitis is a mild and non-destructive type of periodontal disease, left untreated, it could progress to periodontitis which is more serious and can eventually lead to loss of teeth. Therefore, the condition no matter how mild the symptoms are should be taken seriously and addressed immediately. Gingivitis is also the leading cause of bleeding gums in adults.
The Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 estimated that oral diseases affected half of the world’s population (3.58 billion people) with dental caries (tooth decay) in permanent teeth being the most prevalent condition assessed.
There are two main types/categories of gingival disease which are categorized based on causative factors:
- The first is Dental Plague-induced Gingival Disease, which is caused by plague, certain medications, malnutrition or systematic factors.
- The second category is Non-plague induced gingival lesions, which as the name suggests, is not caused by the plague, but can be caused by a specific bacterium, virus or fungus. The cause of this type of gingival disease might also be genetic or may result from wounds or reactions to foreign bodies such as dentures. In other cases, there is no specific cause.
Causes of Gingivitis
Although Gingivitis is ultimately caused by the buildup of plague, other factors could increase the risk of contracting the disease, some of these factors include:
Poor Oral Hygiene: Although easily avoidable, this is one of the leading causes of Gingivitis.
Poor Nutrition: This deprives the body of important nutrients, thereby making it more difficult for the body to fight infection, including Gingivitis.
Medications: Certain medications could affect oral health, it is therefore important to tell your dentist or hygienist if you take any prescription or over-the-counter medications.
Smoking or Using Tobacco: According to research, smokers are seven times more likely to suffer from gum disease than people who don’t smoke. Smoking can also lower the chances for successful treatment of gum disease.
Hormonal Changes: Changes that include, puberty, pregnancy, menopause and monthly menstruation cause increased sensitivity and inflammation in the gum. To avoid these deteriorating into gum disease, the teeth should be taken extra care of during these physiological changes.
Gingivitis is caused by poor oral hygiene and if not treated can lead to tooth loss and other serious conditions.
Symptoms of Gingivitis
Even though common, because it sometimes doesn’t cause pain, many people don’t know they have Gingivitis. These are some of the symptoms of the disease to watch out for:
- Redness of gums
- Inflamed or swollen gums
- Bleeding from gums especially when brushing or flossing
- Bad breath that won’t go away
- Tooth pain or sensitivity to hot and cold foods or liquid
- Loose teeth. This could be an advanced form of Gingivitis called periodontitis.
Gingivitis requires a medical diagnosis, it is important to speak to your dentist or hygienist if you notice one, some or all of these symptoms.
To determine what type of treatment is suitable, a diagnosis will be carried out upon your visit to the dentist. Dentists usually diagnose gingivitis based on the following:
Review of your dental and medical history: This is to determine if there are other conditions that may have contributed to your symptoms.
Measuring the pocket depth: A dental probe will be inserted beside your tooth beneath your gum line, usually at several sites around the whole mouth, to measure the pocket depth of the groove between your gum and your teeth. The pocket depth is usually between 1 and 3 millimetres (mm) in a healthy mouth. If the depth is deeper than 4mm, this may be an indication of gum disease.
Examination of mouth: Your teeth, gums and tongue will be examined for signs of plaque and inflammation.
Dental X-rays: Areas where the dentist sees deeper pockets will be checked for bone loss.
If all of the above has been done by the dentist and it remains unclear what has caused your gingivitis, he may recommend that you get a medical evaluation to check for underlying health conditions. If your gum disease has progressed to periodontitis, your doctor may refer you to a periodontist.
Treatment of Gingivitis
After a diagnosis has been reached, your dentist will proceed to treatment. Immediate treatment usually reverses symptoms of gingivitis and helps avoid its advancement to periodontitis. Adopting a daily routine of good oral care and stopping/avoiding tobacco use gives the best chance at a successful treatment.
Below are the treatment methods that may be used by your dentist:
This is a professional cleaning known as scaling and root planning, and it initially involves removing all traces of plague, tarter and bacterial products. Scaling and root planning work hand in hand to discourage further buildup of bacteria and give room for proper healing. The procedure may be performed using instruments, a laser or an ultrasound device.
This is only done if necessary, as dental restorations may irritate your gums and make it more difficult to remove plague during daily oral care. If dental restorations contribute to your gingivitis, your dentist may recommend fixing these problems.
Gingivitis usually clears up after a thorough dental cleaning as long as you continue to maintain consistent good oral hygiene at home, you should see your gum tissues become healthy again within days or weeks