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Gingivitis: Symptoms and Causes in Florida

How Common Is Gum Disease?

The earliest stage of gum disease, gingivitis is a common dental problem that presents with swollen, inflamed gums that are reddish in appearance. If you have gingivitis, your gums are also prone to bleeding when brushing and flossing. When not treated as soon as possible, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease that can lead to tooth loss. Surprisingly, gingivitis and periodontal disease are very common, especially in people 65 and older. Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that nearly 71% of those older than 65 have periodontal disease in some form. Younger people are also susceptible to gingivitis and periodontitis as well. According to the CDC, 47% of people 30 and older have periodontal disease.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Gingivitis?

In the early stages, gum disease produces few obvious symptoms. It’s not until the disease has progressed further when symptoms become noticeable. Pink gum tissue that is firmly attached to your teeth is the hallmark of a healthy mouth. If you have any of these symptoms, we encourage you to schedule an appointment:

  • Purple or dark red gums
  • Gums that bleed while flossing or brushing
  • Gums that are painful or tender when touched
  • Puffy or swollen gums
  • Receding gums
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Loose teeth
  • Development of spaces in between teeth

What Causes Gingivitis?

Most cases of gingivitis are caused by plaque, a soft, sticky film that regularly accumulates on the surface of your teeth. Every time you eat, the sugars and starches in food interact with bacteria in your mouth to form sticky plaque. Although it can be removed by being consistent in brushing and flossing your teeth, plaque is constantly forming and must be removed daily. If you don’t brush and floss each day, plaque can quickly harden into a substance called tartar, which causes inflammation and irritation around the gum line, leading to gingivitis. Only a professional cleaning at your dentist’s office can remove tartar.

If you allow tartar and plaque to accumulate around the gum line, bacteria and toxins can attack the soft tissues surrounding your teeth. This can lead to a serious dental problem called periodontitis, which can damage the surrounding bone and lead to eventual tooth loss if left untreated.

Gingivitis Risk Factors

The main cause of gingivitis is the development of plaque, but there are multiple other factors that can affect the health of your gums, increasing the risk of gum disease. These include:

  • Poor oral health habits, including not brushing and flossing regularly
  • Eating an unhealthy diet, particularly a diet low in vitamin C
  • Chewing tobacco or smoking
  • Certain chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, leukemia, or other types of cancer
  • Certain medications, including anticonvulsants, cancer treatments, birth control pills, and calcium channel blockers
  • Changes in hormone levels, such as those occurring during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause
  • Older age
  • A family history of gum disease
  • Crooked teeth that are difficult to clean
  • Ill-fitting dental appliances, such as bridges or dentures
  • Dry mouth

Does Gum Disease Pose Other Health Risks?

Tooth loss is just one of the many concerns associated with gum disease. Researchers have discovered a strong connection to periodontal disease and many health conditions. Instead of bacteria, the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) says that inflammation is likely responsible for this connection. Periodontal disease may be associated with the development of these health problems, according to the AAP and the Mayo Clinic:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Stroke
  • Irregular blood sugar levels
  • Respiratory disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Cancer

How You Can Prevent Gingivitis

Practicing regular oral hygiene at home is one of the most effective ways to prevent gum disease. Daily brushing and flossing removes plaque and food particles from your teeth, and it also massages the gums, which can stimulate blood flow to the gum tissue. Rinsing with mouthwash can reduce plaque and remove any food particles from hard-to-reach areas. Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding tobacco products and eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables can also reduce your risk of gum disease.

Gum disease prevention also includes visiting your dentist regularly. Your dentist will evaluate the health of your gums and supporting tissues, and your hygienist will remove any plaque and tartar around the gum line and between teeth. Professional cleanings every six months is common for most patients, but if you are a smoker or have dry mouth, you may need more frequent cleanings and checkups.

How Is Gingivitis Treated?

Treatment for gingivitis is non-invasive and less time-consuming when diagnosed early by your dentist. In its mild stage, it can even be reversed with a professional cleaning by your dentist or hygienist and daily brushing and flossing at home.

However, if you have advanced gum disease, a condition known as periodontitis, you’ll need a more invasive treatment called scaling and root planing, also called a “deep cleaning.” During a scaling and root planing, plaque, tartar, and bacteria are thoroughly removed from the teeth and gum tissue. Your dentist will also smooth all of the rough surfaces on the roots of your teeth, a process that discourages future growth of bacteria and allows the gum tissue to reattach firmly around the teeth. After treatment, your dentist will schedule a series of maintenance visits.

The symptoms of gingivitis should never be ignored. Take the first step towards preventing gingivitis by contacting us to make an appointment for a professional cleaning.

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