If you check out YouTube too often, you may be under the impression that a word with the root of “ginger” is somehow tongue-in-cheek poking fun at people with red hair.
Not so with “gingivitis.” It’s a perfect word for an ad man like Don Draper or David Ogilvy. It sounds ominous, scary. And if you’re over the age of 30 you’ve heard the term probably hundreds of times. Yes, you’re a victim of advertising, namely Listerine commercials.
But what actually is gingivitis? And is it really as bad as the commercials make it sound?
Here’s a little primer on gingivitis from your friends at Implant Dentistry of Florida.
What is gingivitis?
Yes, the word alone sounds kind of terrifying. But gingivitis actually means nothing more than “gum inflammation.” Plaque is the main culprit in this irritation, kind of akin to that co-worker who talks too much. Plaque is the film that forms on the teeth throughout the day consisting of bacteria, bacterial waste products, food residue, and saliva. When you brush and floss you remove the plaque. Then it starts to rebuild, only to be removed again when you brush.
But if you neglect your oral hygiene the plaque can develop beneath the gum line, where it is very irritating to your gums. If allowed to stay there, the plaque hardens into tartar, causing more persistent irritation. While the term “irritation” sounds innocent enough if this irritation is allowed to continue and progress, it leads to gum disease, clinically known as periodontitis. Now that word actually IS scary because of what it will lead to in dental issues.
What are the signs of gingivitis?
Gum irritation is easy to spot. Your gums should be pink all over, kind of like a cross between Hello Kitty and a wad of Double Bubble. There shouldn’t be any areas of bright red, as this is a sign of irritation.
Your gums should also lie flat against the teeth; inflamed gums tend to recede and pull away from the teeth. Your gums will also be prone to bleeding and this shouldn’t normally happen if you’re using a soft toothbrush. Bleeding is a sign of inflammation. And finally, as in the commercials, your breath will reek. The commercials get this part right — your bad breath is caused by bacteria that is being left to its own devices by your poor oral hygiene.
To keep your gums healthy and keep gingivitis at bay, it all starts with good home hygiene. Beyond that, Drs. Brown, Vaughn, and Doan treat gingivitis with these treatments:
- Prophylactic cleaning
Twice-yearly cleanings with our office are the first step. Why twice a year? That generally is the time it takes to start forming tartar and other issues that lead to decay. During these cleanings and checkups, not only will those problem areas receive a thorough cleaning, but we will also point them out to you for more attentive care at home.
If you have a fair amount of tartar built up under your gum line, we will scrape it off with dental tools. This is called scaling, and depending on how much we have to do, we may give you local anesthesia.
- Root planing
You may also need root planing, where we remove any tiny grooves or pits from the tooth roots to make it easier for the gums to adhere and stop receding. This is done in multiple appointments with local anesthesia.
So, don’t let Don Draper scare you. Gingivitis is easy to spot and then address before it becomes a gum disease. Twice yearly exams and cleanings with the team at Implant Dentistry of Florida are the first steps. Is it time for your next cleaning and exam? Call us at (321) 372-7700.