Imagine trying to bite on your favourite cookies, and suddenly, you feel a sharp pain, and your gum bleeds! Have you ever experienced a situation where your gums are so inflamed and hurt badly that you can’t even Chew food properly?
Gingivitis is a painful inflammation of the gums. It occurs mainly due to the building up of plagues in the teeth. Remember plagues from halitosis?
Gingivitis is a common condition affecting most individuals. It is gum disease with mild-to-moderate symptoms. These symptoms can deteriorate and become more severe if left untreated. Bacterial buildup around the teeth is the most common cause of gingivitis.
Signs and symptoms
The major symptom of gingivitis is reddish, puffy gums that may bleed when a person brushes their teeth or tries to chew on something.
Most often, gingivitis resolves with good oral hygiene, such as prolonged and frequent brushing and regular flossing. In addition, an antiseptic mouthwash is beneficial.
Gingivitis is a non-destructive periodontal disease that people may call gum disease. Gingivitis could also be an early sign of other gum diseases and typically produces mild symptoms.
There are two main types of gingivitis:
- Dental plague-induced gingivitis
- Non-plague-induced gingivitis.
Dental plaque-induced gingivitis occurs when plaque buildup irritates a person’s gums, resulting in inflammation, discolouration, and pain.
In contrast, non-plaque-induced gingival lesions can result from a bacterial, viral, or fungal infection. Allergic reactions, illnesses, and reactions to foreign objects, such as dentures, are also culprits in this type of gingivitis.
Both types of gingivitis can progress to periodontitis if a person does not treat them adequately. Periodontitis is a more severe condition that can lead to further complications, including tooth loss.
The most common cause of gingivitis is the accumulation of bacterial plaque between and around the teeth. Dental plaque is a biofilm that accumulates naturally on the teeth mostly because of poor oral hygiene. It occurs when bacteria attach to the smooth surface of a tooth, producing foul and bad breath.
This plaque can harden near the gums at the base of the teeth, giving it a yellow-white colouration.
Plaque buildup can trigger immune responses that lead to gum tissue destruction.
Other causes and risk factors
Several underlying conditions and factors can increase plaque formation or a person’s risk of gum inflammation. Some of them include:
Changes in hormones: This may occur during puberty, menopause, the menstrual cycle, and pregnancy. The gums might become more sensitive, raising the risk of inflammation.
Some diseases: Cancer, diabetes, and HIV, are linked to a higher risk of gingivitis and other gum-related diseases.
Drugs: Medications that reduce saliva production (Xerostomia) can impact a person’s oral health.
Smoking: Regular smokers more commonly develop gingivitis than non-smokers.
Age: The risk of gingivitis increases with age.
Family history: Those whose parents or relations have had gingivitis have a higher risk of developing it too.
Signs and symptoms
The signs and symptoms of gingivitis might include:
- gum inflammation and discolouration
- tender gums that may be painful to the touch
- bleeding from the gums when brushing or flossing
- halitosis, or bad breath
- receding gums
- soft gums
These symptoms, however, may cause no discomfort or noticeable changes in mild cases.
A dentist or oral hygienist will check for symptoms, such as plaque and tartar in the oral cavity.
They may also order tests to check for signs of periodontitis. This can be done by X-ray or periodontal probing, using an instrument that measures pocket depths around a tooth.
When early diagnosis happens and treatment is prompt and proper, a person may treat gingivitis at home with good oral hygiene.
However, if symptoms do not resolve, or the condition becomes severe and affects a person’s quality of life, they may wish to seek professional help.
Treatment often involves care by a dental professional.
Professional dental care
A dental professional may initially carry out scaling. This is done so they can remove excess plaques. This can be uncomfortable, especially if the buildup is extensive or the gums are very sensitive.
Once they have cleaned a person’s teeth, the dental professional will explain the importance of oral hygiene and how to brush and floss effectively.
They may recommend follow-up appointments to monitor a person’s plaque level. This will allow the dental professional to catch and treat any recurrences as soon as possible.
A person may prevent gingivitis at home by practising regular good oral hygiene. These include:
- brushing teeth at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste
- flossing teeth at least once a day
- regularly rinsing the mouth with an antiseptic mouthwash
- eating fruits periodically is highly recommend
- Drinking water frequently
Treating gingivitis and following the dental health professional’s instructions can prevent complications.
However, gum disease can spread and affect tissue, teeth, and bones if left untreated.
Some complications include:
- abscess or infection in the gingiva or jaw bone
- periodontitis — a more severe condition that can lead to loss of bone and teeth
- recurrent gingivitis
- trench mouth, where bacterial infection leads to ulceration of the gums
Points to note
Gingivitis is a common type of gum disease. It is the result of bacterial buildup on the teeth. This buildup irritates surrounding gum tissue and can cause the gums to become inflamed, discoloured, and painful to the touch.
Most people can treat gingivitis with regular good oral hygiene practices. Regular dental checkups can help identify and treat gum disease signs in good time. Taking water and lots of vitamins from fruits 100% recommended is very important in treating gum diseases.