What is Gingivitis?


Like it or not, we’re all victims of advertising. Take the word “gingivitis.” There’s no way anyone would know what that word meant except for one reason — Listerine TV commercials. For decades, Listerine has promoted itself as your last bastion of protection from dreaded gingivitis.

But what is gingivitis?

At Implant Dentistry we know and we care about gingivitis, mostly because of what it is leading to. But since you probably only know the word from a commercial, here’s what it’s all about…and why you should care.

Gingivitis, Beyond Its Scary Name

Picture yourself as Don Draper, the notorious ad man from the TV series Mad Men. Gingivitis is a perfect word for advertising because it sounds scary. The actual meaning is pretty benign — the term gingivitis simply means gum inflammation.

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. And this is where things get dicey. Because 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. And periodontitis is not where you want to go with your gums.

What Are Signs of Gingivitis?

Said gum irritation is easy to spot. Your gums should be pink all over. They should look like the inside of a conch shell in the Keys. Any bright red patches show 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.

Gingivitis Treatments

To keep your gums healthy and keep gingivitis at bay, it all starts with good home hygiene. However, since the team at Implant Dentistry of Florida can’t all be there to nag you about home hygiene, we still see the results of gingivitis. Here’s how Dr. Brown and Dr. Vaughn address it.

  • Prophylactic cleaning

This is a fancy sounding term for your regular twice-yearly cleanings with us. 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.

  • Scaling

If you have a fair amount of tartar built up under your gumline, we will scrape it off with dental tools. This is called scaling. Why? Because “scraping with dental tools” sounds pedestrian. Depending how much we have to do, we may give you a local anesthesia.

  • Root planing

In root planing, any tiny grooves or pits are removed 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.

There, you’re now a gingivitis expert and you don’t even have to work on Madison Avenue. Is it time for your regular exam and cleaning? Call us at Implant Dentistry of Florida, (321) 372-7700, to make your appointment.

Scroll to Top
Skip to content