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Gingivitis: Symptoms and Causes in Atlanta

What Is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. Gingivitis leads to swelling, irritation, and redness of the gum tissue, especially around the base of teeth. Many adults develop some form of gingivitis during the course of their lives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 47.2% of people 30 and older have periodontal disease in some form. Your risk of developing the disease increases greatly as you get older. In fact, the CDC estimates that approximately 70% of people over the age of 65 have periodontal disease. One of the main concerns with gingivitis is that it can progress to periodontitis, a serious gum disease that can cause tooth loss if not carefully treated.

What Are the Symptoms of Gingivitis?

It’s possible to have gum disease and not be aware of it. Fortunately, if you can recognize the early signs of gingivitis, it can be treated before it progresses to an advanced stage. Healthy gums are pink in appearance and fit firmly around your teeth. Pay attention to these warning signs of gingivitis:

  • Gums that bleed while flossing or brushing
  • Swollen or puffy gums
  • Gums that are dark red or purple in color
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Receding gums
  • Gums that are painful or tender when touched
  • Loose teeth
  • Developing spaces in between teeth

What Causes Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is primarily caused by plaque, a sticky film made of bacteria, that accumulates on teeth. It forms on teeth when the sugars and starches found in the foods we eat interact with the bacteria in plaque. It re-forms very quickly and requires daily removal. When plaque isn’t removed through daily brushing and flossing, it can irritate and inflame the gum tissue surrounding teeth.

When not removed, plaque hardens into a material called tartar, also known as calculus deposits, which attracts bacteria and irritates the gums. Tartar is very difficult to remove and requires cleaning by a dental professional. If you don’t see your dentist regularly and allow tartar and plaque to accumulate, you’ll start to notice swollen gums that bleed when you brush or floss. When left untreated, gingivitis can turn into an advanced stage of gum disease called periodontitis, which can lead to tooth loss and infection of the bone and tissue that surround teeth.

What Are the Risk Factors of Gingivitis?

Poor brushing and flossing habits greatly increase your risk of developing gingivitis. There are also certain factors that can increase your risk, including:

  • A family history of gum disease
  • Dry mouth
  • Chewing tobacco or smoking
  • Crooked teeth that are difficult to clean properly
  • Poor nutrition, including a diet low in vitamin C
  • Diabetes
  • Conditions that lower immunity, such as leukemia and other types of cancer and HIV/AIDS
  • Poor-fitting dental appliances, such as bridges or dentures
  • Older age
  • Hormonal changes, including during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause
  • Certain medications, including anticonvulsants, cancer treatments, oral contraceptives, and calcium channel blockers

Other Ways Gum Disease Can Affect Your Health

Gum disease can affect your health in more ways than tooth loss. Research has found that periodontal disease can contribute to other health problems. According to the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), inflammation plays a major role in this association. Take a look at some of the diseases and conditions that are linked to periodontal disease, according to the AAP and the Mayo Clinic:

  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Problems regulating blood sugar
  • Osteoporosis
  • Respiratory disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

The Best Ways to Prevent Gum Disease

Since the treatment of gum disease in its advanced stage can be time consuming and costly, prevention is very important. Practicing good oral health habits at home is the most effective way to prevent the development of gum disease. This includes brushing and flossing your teeth at least once each day. You can also ask your dentist or dental hygienist for tips on the proper flossing technique and how many times you should brush and floss every day to remove plaque and bacteria.

In addition to at-home oral care, receiving professional dental cleanings can also prevent gum disease. If you have a healthy mouth, you may only need to come in every six months for a checkup and cleaning. If you regularly smoke, have dry mouth, or have deep pockets around your teeth, you may need to receive more frequent exams and cleanings.

Gum Disease Treatment

Fortunately, gingivitis is typically reversible when diagnosed at an early stage. When caught early, treatment usually consists of a professional cleaning at our dental office and diligent brushing and flossing at home.

A treatment called scaling and root planing is recommended when gum disease has progressed to periodontitis, the most advanced stage of gum disease. This is a deep-cleaning treatment that’s usually performed under a local anesthetic. During the procedure, tartar, plaque, and toxins are removed from deep beneath the gums and root surfaces of teeth. Following treatment, good at-home treatment is needed, including brushing and flossing daily.

If you have any of the symptoms of gingivitis, we encourage you to call our office to make an appointment. One of our dentists will carefully examine the health of your teeth and gums and provide you with the knowledge needed to prevent gingivitis and preserve the health of your mouth. Contact us today!

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