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Gingivitis: Symptoms, Causes, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

Gingivitis is inflammation (leading to redness, swelling and irritation) of gums. One may ignore gingivitis, because it is minor and have mild symptoms. However, we should not ignore gingivitis, because it may lead to various complications, including tooth loss. Good oral health is the best way to prevent gingivitis and most of the dental problems.

What are the symptoms of gingivitis?

Symptoms and signs of gingivitis include,

  • Swollen gums, that may bleed easily, especially when you brush or floss
  • Receding, soft and puffy gums
  • Color of gum may change from pink to dusky red
  • Halitosis or bad breath
  • On rare occasion gums may become tender
  • There may be pain during chewing
  • Teeth may be sensitive

What are the causes of gingivitis?

The most important cause of gingivitis is poor dental/oral hygiene. Poor oral hygiene lead to development of plaque, which is invisible thin film of sticky material mostly made up of bacteria commonly found in mouth. Brushing teeth twice a day and flossing daily can prevent plaque formation and gingivitis. Plaques need to be removed (by brushing and flossing) daily. Plaques if not removed daily can become harder known as tartar, which can act a protective shield for bacteria to shelter and flourish. One need professional dental cleaner to remove tartar, as they cannot be removed by brushing and flossing. If tartar/plaque remains in your teeth, it can irritate your gums and lead to gingivitis.

What are the risk factors of developing gingivitis?

Anyone can develop gingivitis. However some factors increase the risk of gingivitis, these factors are,

  • Poor oral/dental hygiene
  • Diabetes
  • Tobacco use, especially chewing tobacco and also smoking
  • Impaired immunity due to HIV/AIDS, and other immunosuppressant conditions
  • Older age
  • Dry mouth
  • Substance abuse as well as certain prescription medications
  • Infection (some viral and fungal infections)
  • Hormonal changes as seen during puberty and pregnancy
  • Poor nutritional status
  • Ill fitted dentures

What are the possible complications of gingivitis?

One should never ignore gingivitis, because of its mild symptoms. Gingivitis can cause periodontitis and ultimately tooth loss. However, gingivitis may also be associated with various potentially life threatening conditions, such as heart attack, lung disease, stroke, low birth weight babies or premature birth etc. although direct link is not found, but these conditions are associated with gingivitis. Hence, we need to watch out for gingivitis.

Diagnosis of gingivitis:

Diagnosis of gingivitis is usually based on examination of gums and oral cavity (teeth, mouth and tongue) by your dentist. However, your dentist may ask you to undergo certain tests to find out if there is any possible medical condition involved along with gingivitis.

Treatment of gingivitis:

Prompt treatment of gingivitis can reverse the damage already done and also prevent further damage. Treatment includes thorough cleaning of plaques, including hard tartar and fixing the problematic dentures if any. Treatment also includes giving correct instruction about brushing and flossing. Treatment of gingivitis includes,

  • Scaling, root planing, lasers to remove tartar
  • Antiseptic/antibiotic mouthwash
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Surgical procedures may also be required such as flap surgery, bone and tissue graft

Prevention of gingivitis:

The best way to prevent gingivitis is to maintain good oral hygiene. For maintaining good oral hygiene, it is important to brush at least twice a day, floss daily and east teeth healthy food and maintain regular bowel habit. Not to mention, one need to visit dentist at regular interval, commonly every 6 months to one year. If you have risk of developing dental problems, you may require visiting more often.

Home remedies for gingivitis:

Following steps may be of great help in gingivitis,

  • Use soft or moderately hard tooth brush for brushing and change tooth brush regularly, every few months.
  • Brush after every meal and floss at least once a day
  • Use mouthwash if your dentist recommend

Get regular dental check up as recommended by your dentist.

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