Waking up with redness and tenderness around your teeth – in your gums – is never a thing you would ever wish for. However, it is usually a mild form of gum disease. In fact, it is just that by definition. More serious cases are termed “periodontitis”. Gingivitis is the most common type of periodontal disease.
Gingivitis is not a comfortable condition to have. The gums are usually swollen, tender, painful and red. This is a result of irritation to the gums. As luck would have it, the fact that it is painful means that people are more inclined to treat it early. As a result, not many cases progress to full-blown gum disease. Patients also report bad breath and bleeding from the gums, especially when brushing or flossing. Bad taste in the mouth is also a common symptom.
Dental plaque causes this form of gum disease. Dental plaque is a film of water, sugars, and bacteria that adhere to your teeth. Bacteria love living on the surface of the teeth, as there is ample food available, especially if you eat a lot of starchy and sugary foods, and little vegetables and fruits rich in fiber.
These bacteria are responsible for the inflammation, which is the result of an immune response. The bacteria irritate the gums and cause uncomfortable symptoms. As the disease progresses, the gums begin to recede and expose the surface of the teeth. The longer the disease is present, the harder it is to halt its development without any permanent effects.
Gingivitis in its early stages is easily reversible and will not progress to periodontitis. Almost all cases of periodontitis are preceded by gingivitis. The best course of action is to prevent the onset of the disease in the first place. It is the easiest thing to do, but even if you do experience symptoms, the course of action is the same.
Since dental plaque is the cause of gingivitis in most cases, methods that help reduce the buildup of plaque are also effective for the treatment of gingivitis. This includes regular flossing and brushing. Brush twice daily with circular motions. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to avoid further irritation to your gums.
If you find plaque to be too difficult to remove, it may have already hardened. Tartar, the hardened form of plaque, usually requires removal by a professional.
While gingivitis may happen to anyone, some groups are more at risk than others. If you smoke or drink a lot, you are more at risk. Diabetics should be especially careful and visit their dentist more often than others. Other risk groups include the immunocompromised, pregnant women, patients with misaligned teeth, patients who wear dentures and those taking certain kinds of medications (corticosteroids, oral contraceptive pills and chemotherapy medications, among others).
Should gingivitis not go away on its own, the dentist may prescribe special antiseptic mouthwash with chlorhexidine or hydrogen peroxide. Toothpaste that contain triclosan are also effective at clearing up the condition. Professional cleaning by your dentist will usually help reduce the inflammation. More serious cases of gingivitis (periodontal disease) warrant the use of antibiotics, but these are not indicated for milder cases.
Good and consistent oral habits should result in marked improvement within two to three weeks. By that time, your gums should heal fully and irritation should be gone. If it is not the case, visit your dentist to determine the further course of action in order to prevent any further damage to your gums.
Do note that once the inflammation clears up, this does not mean that you can stop with regular brushing and flossing. If you do, gingivitis is likely to come back with a vengeance. Proper oral hygiene is a must; otherwise, you expose yourself to gingivitis, bad breath, and dental caries.
Since brushing your teeth only takes 3 to 5 minutes, it should not be a problem to include in your daily schedule. Remember that any dental issues cost you more time, money, and most importantly, health than regular brushing. Dental treatments get more expensive as the severity of the disease increases, and there is less chance of them being successful. The worst-case scenario, which unfortunately comes about too often, is tooth loss. But by then, it is too late. That is why we urge our patients to take the matter in their own hands and start taking care of their own oral health.
Of course, we are here to help and answer any questions you might have. Let’s work together – one smile at a time!