Patient in dental chair pointing to affected area with gingivitis.

Neglecting your mouth’s oral care can be unintentionally easy. For example, getting out of the house in the morning is a mad dash, and you fall into bed exhausted each night. In between, you work through lunch or eat on the run. So, you become a bit lax with brushing and flossing. That all can lead to gingivitis, leading to serious mouth health problems down the road.

What Is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is the initial phase of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. It results in redness, swelling, and irritation of the gingiva. The gingiva is the part of the gum that encompasses the base of each tooth. Signs and symptoms of gingivitis should not be ignored as neglecting it can lead to more severe issues. Consult your dentist so that your gingivitis is treated promptly.

Are There Different Types Of Gingivitis?

Gingival disease falls into two main categories: plaque-induced and non-plaque-induced.

Plaque Induced: Most gingivitis cases are caused by dental plaque. However, medications, malnutrition, and systemic factors can also result in plaque-induced gingivitis.

Non-Plaque Induced: A small percentage of gingivitis cases are non-plaque induced.

This type of gingivitis can be caused by allergies, disorders, infections, and injuries.

Both viral and fungal infections can lead to gingivitis. For example, the herpes virus turns gums bright red while also causing small sores to form inside the mouth. The sores can be either yellow or white. Thrush is a fungal infection that includes white or red patches on the gums, the tongue, and the corners of the mouth.

An impacted tooth can also bring about gingivitis. This is because the gum swells over the tooth portion that has not broken through yet. In contrast, the gum flap over the emerged part can trap bacteria and food particles. This type of gingivitis – known as pericoronitis – tends to occur around wisdom teeth.

Gingivitis vs. Periodontitis

Gingivitis and periodontitis are the first two stages of gum disease. Gingivitis is the initial and mildest phase. After that, gums will swell, turn red, or bleed from brushing and flossing. Unfortunately, gingivitis can also present no symptoms in some cases. Consequently, left untreated, gingivitis will advance to periodontitis.

Periodontitis is the second phase of gum disease. It results from plaque forming below the gumline. The plaque then produces toxins that inflame the gums, which can begin to recede. Visually, your gums will appear to separate from the top or bottom teeth. Your teeth can also loosen.

What Are The Differences Between Inflamed Gums And Healthy Gums?

A comparison between inflamed gums vs. healthy gums will reveal that healthy gums are pale pink in a color, firm, and fit snug around teeth. Inflamed gums are red and swollen. They can also bleed due to brushing or flossing.

Who's At Risk for Gingivitis?

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

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Genetics
  • Old age
  • Poor nutrition
  • Dental appliances that do not fit properly or loose or crooked teeth that make it difficult to clean
  • Dry mouth
  • Diabetes
  • Broken or chipped fillings

What Are The Symptoms Of Gingivitis?

Watch out for a handful of gingivitis symptoms. Though in some mild cases, patients might not exhibit any symptoms or suffer from any discomfort. Typical symptoms of gingivitis are as follows:

  1. Red gums – Gums will be bright red or appear purple;
  2. Bad breath – Halitosis is a sign that plaque is building upon the tongue;
  3. Swollen Gums – Gums will appear to be inflamed;
  4. Receding Gums – Gums will noticeably recede, exposing more of the tooth;
  5. Painful to touch Gums – Gums will be very tender.
  6. Loose teeth
  7. Ulcers
  8. Bleeding gums when you brush or floss

What Causes Gingivitis?

No single factor doesn’t cause gingivitis. Instead, there are numerous reasons that gingivitis forms.

Bad Oral Hygiene
Maintaining good oral hygiene can be as simple as developing good habits. Start by brushing at least twice each day, including after meals, if possible. Do not forget to floss after brushing. Rinsing with a mouthwash that helps eliminate plaque will also keep your teeth and gums healthy. Consistently skipping any habits, including not seeing your dentist for regular cleanings, can lead to inadequate oral hygiene.

Prescription Medication
Medication may cause gingivitis by creating an overgrowth of gum tissue called hyperplasia. Meticulous oral care at home combined with frequent dental cleanings can minimize the hyperplasia growth rate. However, an alternative is removing the excess gum tissue through surgery. The following prescription medication may cause hyperplasia:

  • Phenytoin – this controls seizures;
  • Cyclosporine – taken by organ transplant recipients;
  • Calcium channel blockers – to help control blood pressure and heart rhythm issues;
  • Oral or injectable contraceptives;
  • Exposure to lead (from cosmetics) or nickel (used in jewelry).

Hormonal Changes
Pregnancy and menopause can both aggravate gingivitis. Some pregnant women neglect their oral care due to morning sickness symptoms and chronic fatigue. A dentist might suggest gentle brushing without toothpaste or a saltwater rinse after brushing. In addition, menopause can result in desquamative gingivitis. This painful condition is found mainly in postmenopausal women. The gum’s outer layers easily bleed and separate from the desquamative tissue. That exposes the nerve endings. Two (2) treatment options include 1) Hormone replacement therapy and 2) Prescription corticosteroid.

Tooth Plaque
Dental plaque is one of the most common causes of gingivitis. Plaque is a filmlike substance comprised of bacteria, food particles, and saliva. It deposits on teeth daily, though proper brushing and flossing remove plaque. Plaque tends to develop due to a lack of regular brushing and flossing. It collects along the gumline and builds up between gums and teeth. Plaque hardens into tartar if it remains on teeth for 72 hours—pockets of plaque form between teeth and gums, allowing bacteria to collect. Gums will then become red, swollen, and easily bleed from brushing or flossing.

Vitamin Deficiencies
Though vitamin deficiencies occasionally cause rare gingivitis. Scurvy, a Vitamin C deficiency, can cause bleeding and inflamed gums. You might also notice red or purple dots, along with bruising, inside the mouth. A lack of Niacin – known as pellagra - can also cause bleeding and inflamed gums. A Niacin deficiency can also predisposition you to mouth infections such as thrush or glossitis. Supplements and a diet that is high in fruits and vegetables may correct Vitamin C and Niacin deficiencies.

Other Diseases
Diseases such as leukemia can even cause gingivitis. Leukemia cells infiltrate into the gums. As a result, the gums become red, swollen, painful, and they bleed easily. Gingivitis in leukemia patients can be challenging to alleviate. The diminished immune system makes it harder to fight off infections. In some cases, leukemia will form in the gum tissues. The gums will not be able to be restored to total health until the leukemia is in remission.

How To Treat Gingivitis

Gingivitis should initially be treated with non-surgical procedures. Start by, if you have not already, developing and sticking with a good oral care plan. Consult your dentist if you are not sure what works best for you. Other professional options exist if your gingivitis has advanced to a point where regular brushing and flossing will not reverse the trend.

Scaling And Root Planing
This method is a professional dental cleaning that removes all plaque, tartar, and bacteria. Scaling eliminates the plaque and tartar from your teeth and below the gumline. Root planing eliminates bacteria, smooths root surfaces, diminishes future tartar and bacteria from forming, allows your mouth adequate time to heal.

Dental Restoration
Dental restoration involves fixing oral issues with your teeth. That includes any misaligned teeth or previously performed dental work, such as bridges and crowns that don’t fit well. Problems that affect your teeth can lead to gingivitis.

Healthy Habits
A dentist can use tools and procedures to rid a patient of gingivitis. But, after that, the onus to keep it away is on the patient. Developing and maintaining a good oral care plan for your teeth plays a prominent role in preventing gingivitis from forming or returning. Regular cleanings by your dentist should be part of that plan.

Gingivitis Medication
Medication is another avenue for gingivitis treatment. Here are three common antidotes. Antimicrobials are used to inhibit bacteria growth in the mouth. Antiseptics, which halt plaque growth, are also used to treat gingivitis. Antibiotics are a third option. A dentist will prescribe them if the gingivitis has advanced to a more severe stage of gum disease.

How To Prevent Gingivitis

Preventing gingivitis starts at home by implementing some healthy habits.

Good Oral Hygiene
By now, you know that you should brush at least twice each day. Be sure that each time you brush for two full minutes. If you can only brush twice a day, make sure it is once in the morning and again before going to bed. Ideally, brush after meals and snacks too. Floss at least once each day. For example, consider flossing before brushing because it loosens food particles and bacteria, making them easier to remove with a toothbrush.

Regular Visits To The Dentist
Make regular appointments with your dentist for cleanings. The standard is every six to 12 months. Some risk factors, such as dry mouth or taking specific medications, might require more frequent cleanings. Consult your dentist about what the proper cleaning schedule is for you. Your dentist should also x-ray your teeth once each year. X-rays allow a dentist to see issues not visible during a cleaning.

Control Over Other Diseases
Certain health conditions, such as diabetes, can exacerbate gingivitis. Monitor your blood sugar level and eat nutritious foods if that is the case.

Gingivitis Treatment Cost

Gingivitis treatment cost depends on the procedure that was performed. Standard dental prophylaxis runs anywhere from $30 to $75. A typical scaling and root planing procedure will cost between $140 and $210. Antimicrobial treatment can cost an average of $75 per tooth. A dental restoration cost depends on the procedure performed.

Find The Best Gingivitis Specialist Near You

Consult your dentist to discuss any gingivitis questions or if you think you are suffering from gingivitis. Or if you're asking where to find a dentist near me, check out Smile Generation to find a dentist near you for your gingivitis prevention and treatment needs. You can read patient reviews, peruse staff bios, and schedule an appointment online with a click of your mouse.

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