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Gingivitis | Gum Disease, Periodontitis Causes & Prevention

If your gums start bleeding when you floss, it's not flossing, causing the problem. Have you noticed your gums are puffy or bleeding? If so, you may be suffering from gingivitis, the beginning stages of gum disease. For this reason, you must see your dentist or periodontist for treatment. According to Dr. Matthew Darbro, DDS, a general dentist at Glendora Smiles in Glendora, Eighty percent of people in America have gum disease and should see their general dentist every six months in California.

As plaque takes up residence in your mouth, gingivitis sets in. This sticky film can harden to become tartar. With proper brushing and flossing, you can easily remove plaque. However, getting rid of tartar is difficult. A dentist or hygienist must remove it. Plaque and tartar provide a place for harmful bacteria to thrive, which causes all sorts of dental problems. Like cavities, swollen or bleeding gums, bad breath, and, if not treated, tooth, gum, and bone loss. The bacteria can also provoke inflammation and cause or exacerbate existing medical conditions, such as Alzheimer's, heart disease, or diabetes.

Who's At Risk for Gingivitis?

Anyone can develop gingivitis, but some factors can put you at increased risk, including:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Genetics
  • Old age
  • Poor nutrition, including vitamin C deficiency
  • Dental appliances that do not fit properly or loose or crooked teeth that make it difficult to clean
  • Hormonal changes caused by birth control pills, the menstrual cycle, or pregnancy
  • Dry mouth
  • Diabetes
  • Broken or chipped fillings

Common Symptoms of Gingivitis

Concerned you may have gingivitis? Take extra care when brushing and flossing your teeth and look for any of the following symptoms:

  1. Bleeding gums when you brush or floss
  2. Halitosis or bad breath
  3. Receding gums
  4. Ulcers
  5. Inflamed, tender, or swollen gums
  6. Red or purple gums
  7. Loose teeth

How To Prevent Gum Disease

Gingivitis is common, but there are steps you can take to reduce your chance of developing gum disease:

Get regular dental checkups. The nation's best dentists advise their patients to have a dental cleaning every six months—more often if they're prone to oral health problems. Specific procedures, such as laser-assisted cleaning, can remove plaque and tartar from the teeth to prevent gum disease.

Brush your teeth. Your toothbrush is a strong ally against plaque and tartar buildup. Use fluoride toothpaste twice daily: once in the morning and once before bed. Follow these toothbrushing tips for proper cleaning:

  • Hold your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle along the gum line.
  • Move the brush in short circular strokes along each surface of your teeth.
  • Don't skip the back teeth and areas around fillings and other dental work.
  • Clean the inner surfaces of front teeth with an "up and down" stroke.
  • Check with your general dentist for the correct type of toothbrush for you.
  • Change your toothbrush every three months.

Floss every day. As you now know, bleeding gums mean you should floss more, not less. Dentists recommend flossing at least twice a day to remove sticky plaque and food particles from between the teeth. You have a choice of string floss, interdental flossers, toothpicks, or even water flossing devices. Ask your general dentist for the best type of floss or an interdental cleaner to use. Follow these simple tips to floss like a pro:

  • Wrap a piece of 18" floss around the middle finger of both hands. Leave a 1-½ to 2-inch space between for flossing.
  • Hold the floss tightly between your thumb and forefinger and insert it between your teeth.
  • Rub the floss gently up and down the surface of one tooth and under the gum line. Floss with a back-and-forth or zigzag motion.
  • Floss in between and around each tooth, including the back teeth.
  • Use a clean area on the floss string for each tooth. Discard the floss after use.
  • If bleeding and swelling occur along the gum line, visit your general dentist as soon as possible for treatment.

What is the treatment for Gingivitis?

Only a dentist can determine if you're suffering from gum disease. Once they make a diagnosis, they may recommend a thorough cleaning, scaling, and root planing (cleaning beneath the gum line) and, in severe cases, oral surgery to repair the damage.

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