Gingivitis: Causes of Gingivitis & How to Treat and Prevent Symptoms
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Gingivitis is a common condition consisting of inflammation of the gums of your mouth. The main symptom is swollen, discolored, bleeding gums. It is prevented and treated by good oral hygiene, and if untreated, it can progress to periodontitis.
What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums. It is typically caused by poor dental hygiene and the buildup of bacteria.
Its hallmark symptoms are swollen, discolored, bleeding gums. The main risk factors for the development of the disease are increasing age, smoking, and dry mouth.
It is both treatable and preventable by engaging in recommended dental hygiene practices. A dentist can also treat the disease by cleaning plaque off your teeth, giving you a special mouthwash, and flossing your teeth. If gingivitis is not treated, it can progress to a more aggressive disease, called periodontitis, or can cause an infection of the gums, including the formation of an abscess.
You should go to the nearest dentist in the next few weeks. There, the dentist or dental hygenist will clean your teeth, getting rid of that nasty plaque/tartar. Once cleaned, you should rinse your mouth twice-a-day with chlorhexidine 0.12% oral rinse (PerioGard) or half-strength hydrogen peroxide. Flossing and brushing your teeth are also essential.
The symptoms someone with gingivitis can expect, include:
- Swelling of the gums: This appears as if the gums are poking through the bases of the teeth.
- Discoloration of the gums: The gums can appear white or purple.
- Tender gums: Brushing or rubbing the gums may hurt.
- Bleeding gums: When the gums are rubbed (such as with a toothbrush), they may bleed.
- Presence of pus when flossing
Complications of gingivitis
If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress to more aggressive disease(s).
- Periodontitis: This is a serious condition that results in the infection and destruction of the “alveolar bone” connected to the teeth. It can result in cardiovascular, reproductive, respiratory, and endocrine diseases.
- Abscess (pocket of infection) of the gums or the jaw
- Cardiovascular (heart) disease
- Pregnancy problems
- Infection of the gums
- Problems during anesthesia
- Spreading of infection to the bloodstream
Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums and structures that support the position of the teeth. This is mostly caused by poor dental hygiene. Poor hygiene allows bacteria to build up around the teeth. These bacteria can form “biofilms” or “plaques.” These plaques irritate the gums and cause the gums to swell, bleed, and hurt. Gingivitis can also be caused by certain drugs, pregnancy, diseases, and certain infections of the mouth.
The following factors increase the chance that you could develop gingivitis :
- Poor dental hygiene
- Smoking, the use of other drugs, and alchol
- Pregnancy: The presence of periodontitis is also linked to giving birth to premature and low-birth-weight infants .
- HIV infection
- Certain medications: Such as phenytoin, calcium channel blockers, oral birth control, and cyclosporin
- Malnutrition or vitamine deficiency
- Exposure to heavy metals
Treatment options and prevention for gingivitis
The treatment of gingivitis hinges on improving dental hygiene. A dentist can help demonstrate these strategies to you. Many of the strategies are listed below in the “Prevention” section.
Other treatments that can be provided by a dentist, include:
- Washing (scaling) of the gums
- Removal of dead or infected tissue (debridement)
- A local anesthetic to relieve pain
- Drainage of any abscesses
- Removal of infected implants
After plaque removal by a dentist, you may find that using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve) may help speed up recovery.
Other treatments depend on why you have gingivitis and are listed below:
- Vitamin C (if you have vitamin C deficiency): Vitamin C deficiency is only common in societies where malnourishment is an issue.
- Treatment of HIV or diabetes
- Stopping of drugs that are known to cause gingivitis
The following are methods to improve your oral hygiene. They are recommended even if you do not have cavities.
- Use a toothpaste with fluoride in it (most important)
- Brush your teeth after each meal
- Floss between your teeth
- Use a mouthwash: Note, this is not a replacement for brushing teeth.
- Supervise children when they brush their teeth
- Use an electric toothbrush or make sure to make a circling motion with the toothbrush
- Stop smoking
- Chewing gum with xylitol sweetener: If you like to chew gum or have breath mints, choose varieties that are not sweetened with sugar.
When to seek further consultation for gingivitis
You should always obtain regular dental care from a dentist. Regular care can prevent the development of gingivitis and periodontitis because the dentist can catch the disease before it gets worse. They can also educate you on the best oral hygiene practices and remove the causative plaque from your mouth.
If you notice that your gums are swollen, tender, or bleeding when touched, then it is time to seek the care of a dentist as you may have gingivitis. Leaving gingivitis untreated can progress to much more severe, irreversible diseases such as periodontitis, cardiovascular disease, and the spread of infection to the blood.
Questions your doctor may ask to determine gingivitis
- Is your mouth pain getting better or worse?
- Do you have a rash?
- Are you allergic to anything?
- Have you noticed a change in your hearing?
- Have you ever been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS?
Self-diagnose with our free Buoy Assistant if you answer yes on any of these questions.
Elliot Stein is a second-year internal medicine resident at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and he intends to sub-specialize in cardiovascular disease. He graduated magna cum laude with an undergraduate degree in molecular and cellular biology from Harvard College in 2013. He obtained his MD and Master of Science in Translational Research (MSTR) from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine in 2019. He stayed at the University of Pennsylvania to complete his internship year 2019-2020 at Pennsylvania Hospital. Elliot also served as an emergency medical technician (EMT) in two countries and three US states before beginning his medical career. He joined Buoy Health in 2018 because of its promise to use new technology to deliver higher quality medical information to anyone regardless of ability to access medical care.
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