Most of us have heard the term gingivitis. It’s been used in Listerine TV commercials for decades. Few of us, however, know what it is. Fewer still show any concern about it.
Ah, but Dr. Brown and our team would advise you to keep an eye on those gums turning from a healthy pink color to a darker red tone. That’s one of the early signs of gingivitis, which is the earliest stage of gum disease.
Let’s get into gingivitis and why you need to pay attention to it for a truly Happy Dental New Year.
What is gingivitis?
Just the word sounds ominous — gingivitis. But the actual definition in the Oxford Dictionary is “Inflammation of the gums.” Really, we’re simply talking about irritated gums. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease. To get to any degree of full-blown gum disease you need to first pass through gingivitis. Gingivitis is an easily treatable and reversible level of gum disease. You know your gums have moved into gingivitis because they will be red, swollen, and will bleed easily. There’s little or no discomfort at this early stage of gum disease.
What causes gingivitis?
Plaque is the main irritant of the gums. 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 gumline, where it is very irritating to your gums. If allowed to stay there, the plaque hardens into tartar, causing more persistent irritation. If this irritation is allowed to continue and progress it can advance to periodontitis.
What are the signs of gingivitis?
Most people are as unaware of gingivitis as they are unable to spell it. There isn’t any pain involved at this point. Plus, since most gingivitis is caused by poor home oral hygiene, they may not be paying much attention to their teeth anyway. But your gums will tell you they are irritated: they will be swollen, puffy, and will bleed easily. They may have started to recede, and they will have changed from a healthy pink to an angry red. Plus, your breath will have gone south.
How can I prevent gingivitis?
All levels of gum disease development are unfortunate in that, in the vast majority of patients, it doesn’t ever need to occur. If the patient provided diligent home hygiene and maintained the schedule of six-month visits for exams and cleanings, just about all cases of gum disease would never happen.
Gingivitis is the first step, the first sign. To prevent it, all you need to do is brush twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste approved by the American Dental Association (ADA). Brush for two minutes. If you’re a little lackadaisical about such things, get one of the great electric toothbrushes now out there. The ADA has approved many models from Oral-B and other companies. These toothbrushes do the work for you, scrubbing off the plaque that builds up in your mouth throughout the day. They even have built-in timers to tell you when you’ve brushed long enough.
And you need to floss once a day. This only takes 30 seconds or so, but it’s imperative to get plaque and food residue out from between the teeth and under the gum edges on the teeth.
That’s all you need to do to prevent gum disease. It’s also important to keep your twice-yearly professional cleanings and exams with our team at Implant Dentistry of Florida. Call us at (321) 372-7700 to schedule your appointment.