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Gingivitis is a disorder that is defined by the inflammation of the gums, characterized as a periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is characterized by the destruction of the gums, tissue, tooth sockets, and ligaments which create the structure that holds the teeth in place. Gingivitis is one of the first stages of serious periodontal disease.


The symptoms of gingivitis include swollen gums, mouth sores, a bright red or purple appearance to the gums, shiny gums, gums that are painless except when touched, and bleeding gums. Often the first signs of gingivitis have no symptoms except for visual symptoms and is likely only to be diagnosed by a dental professional.


Plaque which has been deposited on the teeth for a long period of time is likely to cause gingivitis. Plaque develops on the exposed portions of the teeth, is sticky in substance, and is made up of food debris, bacteria, and mucous. The unremoved plaque deposits build up along the gum line of the teeth first, where it typically turns into a harder substance known as tarter. Plaque and tarter are likely to irritate, inflame, and infect the gums causing gingivitis. Plaque turns teeth yellow, and eventually brown in its thickest build up. Gingivitis may also be caused by trauma or injury to the gums, which can involve a hefty trauma or a light trauma such as brushing the teeth too vigorously or overly enthusiastic flossing.
Image: Gingivitis


Gingivitis typically begins in puberty or early adulthood, and most people experience at least some form of gingivitis during their lifetime. Risk factors for developing gingivitis include illness, pregnancy, uncontrolled diabetes, poor dental hygiene, birth control pills, phenytoin, the ingestion of heavy metals, and malocclusion. Malocclusion is when the teeth improperly line up and cover each other in part or in full, making it very difficult to clean the teeth properly.

A consultation with a dental professional can reveal the presence of gingivitis. A dental professional can detect the presence of soft, swollen, or purple gingiva in the mouth which represents the presence of gingivitis. In most cases of gingivitis, no testing is required. However, in moderate to severe gingivitis, x-rays may be taken as well as dental gingival probing to determine the amount of bone exposed, whether or not the gum line is receding, and if there are any other ill effects from the gingivitis. For the most part these tests are painless or mildly uncomfortable.


Complications may include conditions such as trench mouth, periodontitis, recurrence of gingivitis, infection or abscess of the gingiva or the jaw bones which can lead to tooth loss and bone deficiencies of the jaw, and jaw reconstructive surgery.
Inflammation of the gums
Image: Inflammation of the gums


Treatment for gingivitis always begins with a professional cleaning, also known as scaling the teeth. Patients should have their teeth cleaned a minimum of twice annually, more frequently for those with soft teeth, diseases that lead to tooth loss, and severe cases of gingivitis. After a professional cleaning, home care becomes vital to keep the gingivitis under control. Correcting a malocclusion is often necessary in order to save the teeth in the mouth. Gingivitis can eventually lead to tooth loss and excessive tooth decay. Antibacterial mouth wash is often recommended as well as proper tooth brushing procedures. If the inflammation has spread to the structures which keep the teeth in place, partial or full sets of orthodontic appliances may be recommended.


The best way to prevent gingivitis is to see the dentist regularly and receive thorough teeth cleanings at least twice annually. Meticulous cleanings of the teeth in between dental visits and the use of antibacterial mouthwash and toothpaste is required to prevent the onset of gingivitis or the recurrence of gingivitis.

When gingivitis has affected the mouth to the point that it is recommended to receive oral orthodontic appliances, the patient should follow through as quickly as possible. Infections in the mouth that can stem from gingivitis can affect the entire body, as the infection can eventually enter the bloodstream. While it is rare, an individual can actually perish from an infected tooth that was brought on by gingivitis, especially if the tooth continues to manifest until the infection has taken over the blood. While the removal of teeth and the use of partial or full dentures is not the avenue anyone wants to go down, the patient is likely to feel healthier and experience better nutrition.

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