Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums and is a common form of gum disease, as a result of a bacterial infection.
It occurs when there is a build-up of plaque, or bacteria, on the base of the tooth, where it meets the gumline. The inflammation can develop into pockets or gaps between the tooth and the surrounding gum and result in the loss of ligaments and bone that supports the tooth.
If gingivitis is left untreated it can lead to a more serious infection known as periodontitis. In severe cases where there has been extensive loss of bone, teeth may become loose and even fall out.
According to a report conducted by the Australian Dental Association, 19.8% of Australian adults aged 15+ had periodontal pockets.
What causes gingivitis?
The most common cause of gingivitis is the build-up of bacterial plaque between and around the base of the tooth.
When plaque has not been removed adequately — this is what your 6 monthly dental scale and cleans are for — it can harden into calculus or tartar.
Yellow, grey, white or brown in colour, plaque and tartar can eventually start to irritate the gums, causing an inflammation around the base of the tooth.
This is when you would experience bleeding when brushing or flossing.
If plaque is left unchecked, it triggers an immune response, which can eventually lead to the deterioration of gum tissue and, eventually, further complications, including periodontitis and loss of teeth.
Other risk factors
Gingivitis is more common than you think, anyone can develop it. However, it’s just as preventable with good oral hygiene, care and of course — regular dental check-ups.
Other risk factors can include:
- Poor oral care and hygiene
- Dry mouth
- Poor nutrition
- Conditions that decrease immunity
- Dental restorations fitted poorly, that make it hard to clean teeth
- Broken fillings
- Hormonal changes, including those related to pregnancy, menstrual cycles or use of birth control pills
- Medical conditions, including fungal and viral infections
Do I have gingivitis?
There are a number of signs and symptoms that you’re in the early stages of gum disease. While you may not notice any significant changes, some common signs of gingivitis include sore, tender or puffy gums that bleed when brushing and flossing.
It can also cause small pockets to form where the gum meets the base of the tooth, where food debris can accumulate and cause more irritation, and eventually, decay to the gum line.
It’s important to be aware that the early stages of gingivitis can sometimes be painless, and although you may not be experiencing any obvious symptoms, you may still have some form of gum disease.
Some other tell-tale signs and symptoms can include:
- Receding gums
- Constant bad breath
- Loose teeth
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Bleeding when brushing or flossing
Only a dentist will be able to recognise gum disease and determine the current state of your oral health. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above, consult a dentist immediately.
How is gingivitis treated?
There’s a reason why dentists recommend a check-up every 6 months. A clean and scale is one of the easiest and most effective ways to treat and prevent gum disease. A professional dentist will remove the hardened plaque and tartar that has accumulated above and below the gum line. However, this is not an excuse to forget about your own oral care and hygiene. You should still be flossing at least once a day and brushing your teeth twice a day.
Can you fix gingivitis at home?
Gingivitis is a common form of gum disease that is easily preventable with good oral care and hygiene. You can manage gum disease at home by ensuring you floss at least once a day, brush your teeth twice a day, and use a microbial mouthwash. It is also very important that you visit your dentist every 6 months so they can remove any hardened plaque or tartar.
How long will it take to get rid of gingivitis?
In most cases, gingivitis usually clears up in 10 to 14 days. More serious cases may take longer to treat, but only a dentist will be able to determine treatment time.
How can I prevent gum disease?
Gingivitis can easily be prevented with proper oral hygiene and care, as well as attending regular check-ups and professional cleanings with your dentist. Here are some simple tips to help you prevent gum disease and maintain good oral health:
- Brush your teeth at least twice a day with the correct technique and a toothbrush that is right for you
- Ensure you floss properly at least once a day to remove any food debris
- Visit your dentist every 6 months for regular check-ups and professional cleans
- Avoid smoking: smoking increases the risk of gum disease and other health issues.
When was your last clean and scale? If it’s been over 6 months ago, book a check-up now.