Gingivitis gets a worse rap than it deserves due to some occasional consumer misinformation.
Wait! Come back! Please, hear us out.
The Oasis Dental Milton family of dental care professionals wants you to know, we don’t take gingivitis lightly. It’s a condition that over a decade of toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and especially mouthwash advertisements have characterized as a scourge among gum and periodontal diseases. We’re particularly fond of a very old Listerine ad that quite dramatically proclaimed the effectiveness of the time-tested mouthwash’s formula against “the gum disease, GINGIVITIS!”
Well, this is a bit awkward. See, the thing about gingivitis is, dental professionals concern themselves much more with the severe conditions that can grow from it than strictly about this initial infection itself. Technically, it is a very mild form of gum disease – so mild, in fact, that many more individuals like actually have gingivitis than know they have it.
If we’re being honest, almost every adolescent to adult individual will experience mild gingivitis sooner or later, always beginning with a buildup of a sticky, invisible plaque-bacteria film that forms as bacteria interact with starches and sugars in our mouths. Plaque is incredibly resilient, reforming generally within 24 hours of the last time you’ve brushed your teeth, but that’s exactly what makes twice-daily brushing and at least one daily flossing are so important. After two or three days, remaining plaque forms tartar beneath the gum line that makes it harder to brush plaque away.
Meanwhile, inflamed and swollen gums that have gone from a healthy pink to red and begun to bleed when brushed are signs that gingivitis has set in as the bacteria have released irritating toxins into the gum tissue. The greater enemy is now the accumulation of tartar; brushing or flossing alone won’t remove it and only a dentist or dental hygienist can safely and effectively polish, or “scale” the buildup away. Without that level of attention at this point, periodontitis becomes the next-greatest risk.
Periodontitis is a sizable reason so many dentists take gingivitis so seriously. It is the first major consequence of ignoring gingivitis past a point of no return.
The inner gum layer of a person suffering from periodontitis forms pockets as it pulls away from the teeth and bone supporting them. Infections begin and can eventually escalate as debris amasses in crevices between the gums and teeth, taxing the body’s immune system to neutralize bacteria that spread along with plaque below the gum line.
From that position, the body comes under a double assault. Both the body’s own “good” infection-fighting enzymes and plaque bacteria are pumping the tissue full of toxins and poisons. The connective tissue and bone that stabilize teeth become collateral damage both begin to break down. Meanwhile, deepening pockets from the initial onset kill additional bone and gum tissue, taking away the structure anchoring teeth in place until they become too loose to hold still.
This is representative of why most adult tooth-loss stems from severe gum disease.
The surest means of preventing the onset of any form of gum disease, starting with simple gingivitis, is disciplined daily hygiene routines – again, at least two daily brushings and one before-bed flossing, preferably combined with a quality mouthwash. That also includes giving up smoking and consuming excessive sugar in any form as soon as possible, as both make it a challenge for gum tissue to self-repair when it is infected or damaged.
There are some causes that can often fly just a bit under the radar:
– Significant family history of dental problems
– Naturally occurring hormonal changes accompanying pregnancy, puberty, menopause and menstruation can allow gingivitis a foothold as they increase gum sensitivity
– Diseases that attack the body’s immune system, including HIV and cancer, can make gums more vulnerable to infections
– Diabetic interference with the body’s ability to use blood sugar often increases infectious risks, including development of cavities and periodontal disease
– Medications that dry the mouth out also deprive it of protective saliva, which works to neutralize bacteria that collect on the teeth and gums, while others such as the anticonvulsant Dilantin and anti-angina medications Procardia and Adalat sometimes cause abnormal gum tissue growth
In addition to the telltale irritated, swollen and bleeding gums, gingivitis and more serious periodontal disease are marked by several disconcerting symptoms. For instance, teeth may suddenly become more sensitive and fit together differently when you bite. You may experience pain when chewing. Pus may develop noticeably between the gums and teeth. Partial dentures may no longer fit correctly and others may complain of particularly foul breath that brushing doesn’t relieve. If you or someone you love has experienced any of these symptoms, please, call Oasis Dental Milton to schedule an examination right away before an already serious disease can worsen.