What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gum tissue surrounding the teeth. This swelling is often caused by the build-up of plaque. If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into a more severe form of gum disease, known as periodontitis, which is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Gingivitis is often painless, so if you exhibit any signs or symptoms be sure to visit your dental professional for a proper assessment and to determine a course of treatment.
What is periodontitis?
When gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, the gums begin to pull away from the teeth, creating small pockets. Bacteria can then become trapped in these pockets, weakening the bone supporting the teeth. Make sure to see your dental professional immediately if you notice any of these signs and symptoms to receive a proper assessment.
What Causes Gingivitis and Gum Disease?
Gingivitis is commonly caused by the build-up of plaque. Plaque is an extremely sticky, colorless to pale yellow deposit of bacteria that regularly forms on your teeth. The bacteria produce acids that attack your tooth enamel and can damage the gums. This damage has the possibility of becoming permanent if left untreated.
Poor oral hygiene tops the list of causes. Other important factors:
- Bruxism (grinding your teeth)
- Poor nutrition
- Certain kinds of medication
- Hormones (pregnancy and puberty may cause stress sensitivity to plaque)
- Impacted wisdom teeth
- Heredity (some individuals seem to inherit tendencies toward the disease)
How can gum disease be managed?
1. If your only symptom is bleeding gums, the most important and easiest treatment is a professional dental cleaning twice a year.
Your dentist will remove the hard calculus deposits from your teeth. This should be followed by good home oral hygiene regime: brushing teeth at the gumline twice a day and flossing once a day. Gingivitis is reversible and bleeding gums due to gingivitis will clear up in a few weeks. Routine brushing and dental flossing cannot remove calculus.
2. Once the disease has progressed to where there are periodontal “pockets” around your teeth, deep cleaning or root planing becomes necessary.
Pockets are areas where the gum tissue stays near the “neck” of the tooth and the bone gets destroyed underneath, causing a hole between the teeth where food accumulates and can’t be brushed out by the patient. A special cleaning called ‘scaling and root planing’ is widely used to remove plaque and tartar deposits on the tooth and root surfaces. This procedure helps gum tissue to heal and periodontal disease pockets to shrink. This is sometimes referred to as ‘deep cleaning’. At the next visit, your dentist checks the pocket depth to determine the effect of scaling and root planing. At this point, many patients do not require any further active treatment, only preventive care.
3. When periodontal pockets do not heal after root planing, periodontal surgery may be needed.
As the pockets enlarge, they provide a greater place for bacteria to live and attack the bone and tissue. Surgery allows access hard-to-reach areas under the gum and along the roots where tartar have accumulated. It also removes inflamed tissues and eliminates deep pockets to prevent further bone loss. You may be referred to a periodontist, a dentist who specialises in the treatment of gum diseases.