Can you recognize the signs of gingivitis? You should be able to. Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease and if left unchecked, can progress to the point of permanent tooth loss and other problems. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gingiva, which is the part of the gums at the base of the teeth. It develops when oral health care is neglected. Plaque builds up on the teeth and if it’s not brushed away, it turns into tartar. Tartar is a breeding ground for bacteria and can irritate the gingiva.
It’s important to know the signs of gingivitis so you can take action to reverse it if your gums aren’t in the best shape.
Common Signs Of Gingivitis
- Light Bleeding of the Gums
- When gingivitis is present, the gums may bleed slightly during brushing or flossing.
- Tender, puffy, and swollen gums
- You can see and feel a difference in the gums when gingivitis is present. Your gums may feel tender to the touch and may be visibly puffy and swollen.
- Dark Red Gums
- Another visual clue of gingivitis, the gums may darken in color as they’re inflamed. In general, healthy gums should be pink in color.
- Receding Gum Line
- There are several possible causes of receding gums, including smoking, over-brushing, and even genetics to an extent, but gingivitis and gum disease are the top cause.
- Bad Breath
- Bad breath can be caused by many things, but it’s also a symptom of gingivitis. This is due to bacteria in the mouth.
Why It’s Important To Treat Gingivitis Early
If not reversed, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, or gum disease. The inflammation caused by bacteria can go beyond the gums to penetrate the roots of the teeth, weakening the underlying bone. Untreated gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss and extensive recession of the gums. When gum disease is ignored for too long, it may require surgery to address.
How To Reverse Gingivitis
Luckily, gingivitis is much easier to treat than periodontitis, which is why it’s critical to recognize it early and take steps to address it. Since gingivitis develops due to lack of good oral health habits, the best thing you can do is improve your dental health routine.
- Brush twice a day (time yourself to make sure you’re brushing for the full 2 minutes recommended by the American Dental Association)
- Floss once a day
- Visit your dentist and hygienist regularly
Some slight bleeding from brushing and flossing is normal as your gums get healthier; don’t let it deter you from your new routine.
In addition, you can take these extra steps to keep your gums healthy if you have the following risk factors for gum disease:
- Dry mouth: Keep your mouth moist throughout the day
- Tobacco use (smoking or chewing): Cut down or, even better, quit entirely
- Badly fitting mouth-guards, night guards, and other dental appliances: Have these fitted by your dentist
Some other risk factors include having diabetes, having a compromised immune system, being pregnant, or taking certain medications including steroids and oral contraceptives. If you have one or more of these risk factors, you may want to increase the number of visits you make to the hygienist each year.
Don’t Ignore Your Gums
We pay so much attention to our teeth that it’s easy to ignore the gums. Hopefully you now understand why gum health is so important and you’ll be able to identify early signs of gum inflammation in yourself or your child. As always, if you have any concerns, it’s best to discuss them with your dentist.