Illustration by Daria Krikunova.
Gingivitis simply means inflammation of the gums. The direct cause is a plaque that builds up on your teeth due to improper brushing after meals. Plaque can be described as a soft, sticky, colourless film of bacteria that forms on the teeth and gums through a combination of several strains of bacteria, leftover food, and saliva.
Gingivitis is a non-destructive type of periodontal condition, however, if the plaque is not removed by daily brushing and flossing, it produces toxins that can not only irritate the gum tissue but also the supporting bone which can cause periodontitis. This condition is a more serious periodontal condition and can eventually lead to loss of teeth (1).
So how do I know if I have gingivitis and what are the early signs and symptoms?
In mild cases, you might not even experience any discomfort or noticeable symptoms but it is important to be aware of any of the following symptoms:
- Loose teeth
- Swollen gums
- Bright red or purple gums
- Tender gums that may be sore or painful to the touch
- Bleeding gums when brushing or flossing
- Persistent bad breath, or a perpetual bad taste in the mouth
- Gums that recede or move away from the tooth, exposing more of the tooth than they should
How can I prevent gingivitis?
Practising consistent oral hygiene and attending regular, professional cleanings are essential to preventing gingivitis. Here are a couple of tips on how to take care of your gums, as recommended by the ADA (3) to stop gingivitis before it starts:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day, if not three times (especially after meals)
- Use floss or another type of interdental cleaner to clean between your teeth daily
- Visit your dentist every four to six months for regular check-ups and cleanings
- Tobacco use increases the risk of gum disease, you should stop using tobacco products
- Follow our dental plan: Emerging gingivitis, which advises on brushing techniques for getting the gums back to light coral pink, and tight gums.
- Through this plan, you will be able to build up the best practice for your brushing habits.
Furthermore, the most important factor to prevent gingivitis is to live a healthy lifestyle and have healthy oral care habits. This includes daily brushing and flossing and regular visits to your dentist for open discussion about your oral health.
1. Causes and treatments of gingivitis. 2019. Medical News Today. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/241721.php
2. Plaque-induced gingivitis: Case definition and diagnostic considerations. 2017. Journal of Periodontology. Available at: https://aap.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/epdf/10.1002/JPER.17-0576
3. Keeping your gums healthy. 2015. The Journal of the American Dental Association. Available at: https://jada.ada.org/article/S0002-8177(15)00245-7/fulltext?_ga=2.260984069.924467965.1573740825-1521920438.1573049184