The most common cause of gingivitis is the accumulation of bacterial plaque between and around the teeth, which triggers an immune response, which in turn can eventually lead to the destruction of gingival (gum) tissue, and eventually further complications, including the loss of teeth.
Dental plaque is a biofilm that accumulates naturally on the teeth. It is usually formed by colonizing bacteria that are trying to stick to the smooth surface of a tooth. Some experts say that they might help protect the mouth from the colonization of harmful microorganisms. However, dental plaque can also cause tooth decay, and periodontal problems such as gingivitis and chronic periodontitis.
When plaque is not removed adequately, it causes an accumulation of calculus (tartar – it has a yellow color) at the base of the teeth, near the gums. Calculus is harder to remove, and can only be removed professionally.
Beyond the accumulation of plaque and tarter, gingivitis may also have other causes, including:
- Hormonal changes – which may occur during puberty, menopause, the menstrual cycle and pregnancy. The gingiva may become more sensitive, raising the risk of inflammation.
- Disease – such as cancer, diabetes, and HIV are linked to a higher risk of developing gingivitis.
- Drugs – oral health may be affected by some medications, especially if saliva flow is reduced. Dilantin (anticonvulsant), and some anti-angina medications may also cause abnormal growth of gum tissue.
- Smoking tobacco – regular smokers more commonly develop gingivitis compared to non-smokers.
- Genetics – experts say that people whose parent(s) has/had gingivitis, have a higher risk of developing it themselves.
Treatment options for gingivitis
If the patient is diagnosed early on, and treatment is prompt and proper, gingivitis can be successfully reversed. Treatment involves care by a dental professional, and follow-up procedures carried out by the patient at home.
Gingivitis care with a dental professional:
- Plaque and tartar are removed. This is known as “scaling”. Some patients may find scaling uncomfortable, especially if tartar build-up is extensive, or the gums are very sensitive.
- The dental professional explains to the patient the importance of oral hygiene, and how to effectively brush his/her teeth, as well as flossing
- Periodically following-up on the patient, with further cleaning if necessary
- Fixing teeth so that oral hygiene can be done effectively. Some dental problems, such as crooked teeth, badly fitted crowns or bridges, may make it harder to properly remove plaque and tartar (they may also irritate the gums).
How to Prevent Gingivitis (gum disease)
Good oral hygiene is essential to prevent gum disease. Professional cleanings are also extremely important because once plaque has hardened and built up, or become tartar, only a dentist or dental hygienist can remove it.
You can help stop gingivitis before it develops by:
- Proper brushing and flossing to remove plaque and debris and control tartar buildup
- Eating right to ensure proper nutrition for your jawbone and teeth
- Avoiding cigarettes and other forms of tobacco
- Scheduling regular checkups with your dentist
The doctors and staff at The Colorado Center for Implant and Prosthetic Dentistry are available to help you determine effective solutions to all of your dental problems. If you would like more information from your Littleton area Prosthodontist, please call to make an appointment today.