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Posted on: July 9, 2020
Gingivitis: Symptoms and Causes in Suffern, NY
How Common Is Periodontal Disease?
Gingivitis is the earliest form of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease. This oral health problem involves the inflammation and irritation of the sensitive gum tissue, which can cause puffy gums that bleed while brushing or flossing. If it goes untreated, gingivitis can develop into a potentially dangerous condition called periodontitis. This is an infection that can cause tooth loss. Gingivitis is incredibly common, especially among older adults. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 70% of people 65 and older have periodontal disease. Younger adults are also prone to developing gingivitis. In fact, the CDC reports that almost 50% of adults over 30 years old have periodontal disease.
Common Warning Signs of Gingivitis?
Since the symptoms of gingivitis aren’t always noticeable until the disease has progressed, knowing what healthy gum tissue looks like is key for prevention. Normal, healthy gums are light pink in color and firm in appearance. The following symptoms are warning signs of gingivitis:
- Puffy or swollen gums
- Gums that bleed while flossing or brushing
- Persistent bad breath
- Purple or dark red gums
- Gums that are painful or tender when touched
- Development of spaces in between teeth
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
How Do You Get Gingivitis?
Allowing plaque to accumulate on the surfaces of your teeth is how most people develop gingivitis. Plaque is a very sticky substance that continuously develops on your teeth. The bacteria in plaque release toxins that damage the gums, causing them to appear red, inflamed, and swollen. Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing can remove plaque daily. Since the bacteria in plaque interacts with the sugars and carbohydrates found in many foods, it’s especially important to brush your teeth after meals.
If plaque isn’t removed daily by practicing good oral hygiene, it can harden into a substance called tartar, which can only be removed by your dentist or dental hygienist. Tartar acts as a protective barrier for bacteria and releases toxins that irritate the gums, leading to the symptoms of gingivitis. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, an infection that may lead to tooth loss.
Gum Disease Risk Factors
Plaque buildup is the number-one cause of gingivitis, but there are numerous factors associated with the development of gum disease. These include:
- Dry mouth
- Poor oral hygiene, such as not brushing and flossing regularly
- Having a poor diet, especially a diet low in vitamin C
- Chewing tobacco or smoking
- Changes in hormone levels, such as those occurring during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause
- Poor-fitting dental appliances, such as bridges or dentures
- Crooked teeth that are difficult to clean
- Certain medications, including anticonvulsants, cancer treatments, birth control pills, and calcium channel blockers
- A family history of gum disease
- Certain chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, leukemia, or other types of cancer
- Older age
What Are the Health Risks of Gum Disease?
You’re aware that periodontal disease can cause tooth loss, but did you know that it can also make you more susceptible to other health problems? There’s an increasing amount of research that links gum disease to many common health concerns. The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) suggests that increased inflammation in the body may be responsible. The Mayo Clinic and the AAP report that these health concerns are linked to periodontal disease:
- Coronary artery disease
- Respiratory disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Irregular blood sugar levels
Steps to Prevent Gum Disease
You can help prevent gum disease by engaging in healthy habits at home. It’s important to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once each day. This can remove plaque and bacteria before it hardens. You can also use an antibacterial mouthwash after brushing and flossing to remove harmful bacteria in hard-to-reach places. Avoiding tobacco products and eating a healthy diet rich in antioxidants can also help prevent gum disease.
Regular checkups and cleanings from your dentist and dental hygienist are also important in preventing gum disease. Professional cleanings can remove plaque and tartar that accumulates around the gum line. It’s common for most patients to visit our office every six months for professional cleanings and exams. Depending on your oral health needs, you may need to come in more frequently, especially if you have dry mouth or regularly use tobacco products.
How Is Gum Disease Treated?
If your dentist notices the early signs of gingivitis, it can usually be successfully treated with a professional cleaning in our office. You’ll also need to commit to a consistent schedule of brushing and flossing each day. Failure to do so can allow plaque and tartar to develop, leading to gum disease.
Periodontitis, or advanced gum disease, develops when symptoms of gingivitis are ignored and you’re not practicing good oral hygiene at home. Scaling and root planing is the preferred treatment for periodontitis, and it’s a deep-cleaning treatment that removes plaque and tartar above and below the gum line. Treatment also involves smoothing the tooth roots to remove bacteria and encourage healing. Following treatment, your dentist will give you instructions on how to maintain your oral health at home.
To learn more about how you can protect your teeth and gums from the effects of gingivitis and gum disease, contact our team today to make an appointment. Our experienced dentists have the knowledge and experience needed to identify the earliest signs of gingivitis. Make your appointment today!