Gingivitis is a common form of gum disease. If left untreated, it can lead to a more serious gum disease known as periodontitis and in some cases, tooth loss. The disease causes swelling, irritation and redness in the part of your gums that surround the base of your teeth, known as gingiva.
What causes gingivitis?
The main cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene, especially if you have bad eating habits. Gingivitis forms in the mouth when tartar is present on the teeth. Tartar forms when plaque, the film that forms on your teeth, hardens after staying on your teeth for a while.
The tartar collects bacteria, which it protects by becoming a protective shield that irritates your gums. The longer the tartar is under your gum line, the more it irritates your gums, causing inflammation of the gums on the base of your teeth.
Once plaque has turned into tartar, you will need to visit a dentist to get the tartar removed. Fortunately, gingivitis can be prevented with good oral hygiene, which requires brushing your teeth at least twice a day and seeing your dentist at least twice a year.
What are the symptoms of gingivitis?
The symptoms of gingivitis include:
- Tender gums
- Gum bleeding when you brush your teeth
- Receding gums
- Bad breath
- Swollen gums
- Red gums
If you have any of these symptoms, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist to increase your chances of reversing the damage and preventing it from advancing to a more serious stage.
Are there factors that increase your risk of getting gingivitis?
Even though poor oral hygiene is the leading cause of gingivitis, there are other factors that can put you at risk of developing gum disease, including:
- Hormonal changes related to menstrual cycle, pregnancy and the use of birth control pills
- Prescription drugs for high blood pressure, epilepsies and angina
- Diseases that weaken your immune system like HIV/AIDS, cancer and leukemia
- Poor nutrition
- Advancing age
- Smoking/tobacco use
- Dry mouth
How do you prevent gingivitis?
The best way to prevent gingivitis is by practicing good oral hygiene. You should brush your teeth for two full minutes at least twice a day, floss after brushing and use mouthwash regularly as well. Even though dentists prefer it if you brush after every meal, it is not practical for most people, so you can rinse your mouth with mouthwash or tap water or chew sugar-free gum if you are unable to brush after your meal.
You can also prevent gingivitis by visiting your dentist regularly, which means at least two visits a year. During your dental exam, your dentist will be able to detect early signs of gum disease and prescribe a treatment plan.
Gingivitis can lead to more serious gum disease and the loss of your teeth if left untreated. If you have any of the symptoms listed, schedule an appointment with your dentist to find out if you have gingivitis.
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