Gingivitis: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms & Treatments

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Have you ever brushed your teeth in the morning, only to find your gums swollen and bleeding? Do you find your gums red and tender to the touch? You might have a dental condition known as gingivitis. Before we discuss what causes this gum disease, let us first learn what gingivitis really is.

What is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease caused by the buildup of plaque bacteria on the tissues that surround the teeth. Plaque, a naturally occurring biofilm containing bacteria, can lead to gingivitis if not removed by daily brushing. Although gingivitis is a non-destructive form of periodontal disease, if left untreated, it can lead to periodontitis and eventual loss of teeth. It is largely caused by poor oral hygiene, and it may require dental consultation to reverse. Even if the symptoms are mild, gingivitis must not be left unchecked.

Who can get Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is quite prevalent. But while almost 80% of adults will experience some symptoms of gingivitis, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s inevitable. It’s important to note that occasionally there might be no noticeable pain or apparent signs, leaving people unaware that they have it. That’s another good reason to schedule regular checkups with your dental professional every six months so he or she can identify it and suggest treatment options.

Gingivitis Causes & Risk Factors

To put forward a strong fight against this gum disease, it’s important for you to know the potential risk factors and what triggers it in the first place. Mentioned below are some of the causes of gingivitis:

  1. Plaque:

    One of the primary causes of gingivitis is the accumulation of plaque around the teeth and gum margins. When the leftover food particles mix with saliva, it forms a thin, sticky layer of bacteria around the teeth and gums called plaque. If you don’t brush properly or follow a poor dental oral care routine, plaque can eventually harden into tartar, or irritate the gum tissues and cause gingivitis.
  2. Hormonal changes:

    Surprisingly, your hormones can also contribute to gingivitis, and women are more vulnerable it. Did you know menstruation gingivitis is a thing? During puberty, menopause, menstrual cycle and even pregnancy, most women experience a surge in their hormones that leads to more blood flow to their gums, making them sensitive and react to any irritating stimulus.
  3. Smoking:

    Regular smokers are at a larger risk of developing gingivitis and other gum diseases. The reason is simple - nicotine restricts the blood flow to the organs, including your gums and causes gum discolouration that masks the potential warning signs. Plus, smoking weakens your body’s defence mechanism to combat infections, making your teeth vulnerable to damage.
  4. Poor Nutrition:

    A nutritious diet rich in vitamins is the key to healthy living; we all know that. But what does a lack of it or poor diet do to your body? Let’s find out. Deficiencies in Vitamin C and Vitamin K can also lead to gum bleeding and a host of other gum diseases. So, try to eat foods that are rich in these vitamins.
  5. Genetics:

    Despite following a good oral care routine, if you’re still struggling with dental problems and gum diseases, you should check with your family. If either of your parents have or had gingivitis, then you might be at a risk of developing it.

Gingivitis Symptoms

Gingivitis is an early form of gum disease. To identify and understand more about this oral condition, here are some symptoms of gingivitis you should look out for:

  1. Inflammation:

    Gingivitis causes Inflamed, swollen, puffy gums. They may turn bright red or purple in colour.
  2. Sensitivity:

    You should look out for sensitivity in the gums. Gingivitis causes sensitive gums that are soft and tender, and painful to touch. Sometimes, this sensitivity can also further lead to toothache.
  3. Bleeding gums:

    One of the most obvious signs that you have gingivitis is bleeding gums. Your gums may especially bleed while brushing or flossing.
  4. Halitosis:

    Often times, gingivitis is accompanied by bad breath or halitosis. This is because of the accumulation of plaque and bacteria in the mouth.
  5. Receding gum line:

    You may notice your gums pulling away from the teeth. This is common in gingivitis.

Gingivitis Treatment

If you have gingivitis, here are the treatment options available for you:

  1. Cleaning:

    The first step to treat gingivitis is to clean the teeth thoroughly. Scaling is a process that eliminates tartar above and below your gum line. In case deep cleaning is required, root planing is a process you can consider. It smoothens rough spots and removes the tartar and plaque from the surface of the roots. Lastly, lasers are an alternative to the above two procedures that help clean the teeth with far less pain and bleeding.
  2. Medicines:

    The medication used to treat gingivitis depends on the decay and ranges from a simple mouthwash to tissue grafts. Here are some of the medicines
    • An antiseptic mouthwash - it the most basic form of medicine prescribed that helps in disinfecting the mouth.
    • Oral antibiotics - Any case of persistent gum inflammation can be treated using oral antibiotics.
    • Timed-release antiseptic chips, which contain chlorhexidine and can be inserted into pockets.
  3. Surgery:

    For more severe incidences, a flap surgery is recommended wherein the gums are lifted to eliminate plaque from underneath and then sutured snugly around the teeth. When the jaw is damaged beyond treatment, a bone and tissue graft treatment may be prescribed.

How to Prevent Gingivitis?

Now before you get into panic mode and start spending hours in front of the mirror staring at your gums, here’s how you can prevent gingivitis. After all, it’s for a reason people swear by – “prevention is better than cure.”

  1. Improve your oral hygiene:

    The first step towards keeping the dental problems at bay is to follow a good oral hygiene or improve your existing one. Make a routine that includes brushing twice daily (in the morning and night), using a dental-recommended mouthwash, flossing, and using premium quality dental products like the ones from Oral-B. It will help remove plaque bacteria effectively and prevent any future build-up or gum diseases.
  2. Quit smoking:

    Now that you know how badly nicotine and smoking can affect your gums, it will be a good idea to quit it now, instead of waiting for the gum problems to aggravate in future.
  3. Nutritious diet:

    Include foods rich in Vitamin C and Vitamin K into your diet, considering these vitamin deficiencies are known to trigger gingivitis. Also, avoid foods that are loaded with sugar as they can cause tooth decay and serve as rich fodder for bacteria in your mouth.
  4. Visit your dentist regularly:

    Regardless of whether you are struggling with any dental problems, make sure to visit your dentist every six months as they can help diagnose any underlying issues. Plus, regular examination will help prevent plaque buildup or any other gum problems.

Following these preventive measures and treatments can help you effectively deal with gingivitis. However, if things get worse and you continue to struggle with gum problems, visit your dentist. Your dental expert can help you pick the right treatment as well as an oral routine that is ideal for you. Additionally, use advanced dental products like the Oral-B electric toothbrushes to clean your teeth and keep gum problems at bay.