Gingivitis: Prevalent, Sinister, but Reversible
Gum disease is common but avoidable.
Gum disease is very widespread in the United States. In fact, over half of the population is suffering from some form of gum disease. Believe it or not, gum disease is associated with conditions such as heart disease, metabolic disease, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and stroke. What’s worse is that the disease often progresses silently.
Read on to find out more about what gum disease entails and how you can prevent it both at home and with help from your dentist.
Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease that results from bacteria building up around the gumline and mixing with acids and bits of food to form plaque. Over time, minerals from saliva harden this plaque into tartar, which is very difficult, if not impossible, to completely remove at home. When tartar builds up underneath the gumline, it tends to irritate it and cause an infection to develop. The longer the tartar remains there, the worse the infection becomes.
When gingivitis has progressed to a certain point, advanced gum disease, otherwise known as periodontitis, sets in. In this stage of gum disease, the gums pull away from the infected area, creating a pocket. Now, more plaque and bacteria have space to build up, as the pocket creates a little home for it. This causes the gums to pull back even more, deepening the pockets yet again, and continuing the cycle. If left untreated, the infection eventually reaches the surrounding bone tissue, further compromising the structures surrounding the teeth.
As the infection worsens, the bones that hold the teeth in place begin to lose mass, which may cause teeth to loosen or fall out. The bacteria can also invade the bloodstream, influencing the development of systemic health conditions. This is why it’s so important to detect gum disease at its earliest stage (gingivitis) when it’s still reversible.
Gingivitis Red Flags
By now you may be asking yourself, “Well, how can I tell if my gums are infected? What are the signs?” There are three main things you need to keep your eyes open for. And remember, none of them involve pain. Pain can be an indicator, but it rarely is when gum disease first develops. This is part of what makes it so sinister.
The first sign is typically bleeding in your gums. Your gums shouldn’t bleed, even when you floss. Bleeding is a sign of infection. Secondly, pay attention to the color of your gums. Healthy gums are firm and should be light pink for light-skinned people and could appear somewhat brown or even black due to a greater amount of melanin in darker-skinned people. But gums that are infected may appear soft, puffy, swollen, red, or receding. A third sign of gingivitis is halitosis (bad breath) because, over time, the bacteria buildup gives off an unpleasant odor. The important thing is to take action if you notice even one of these symptoms.
Is Gingivitis Curable?
If you notice any of these gingivitis red flags in your mouth, the best thing you can do is take immediate action. Here are five things you can do to reverse gingivitis and protect your health.
1. Go see your dentist right away.
Don’t wait until your next six-month dental checkup. It’s necessary to see your dentist immediately if you notice symptoms. Book an appointment with your dentist right away, and they’ll perform an evaluation to assess your gums for any sign of infection. They’ll also professionally clean your teeth and give you instructions on what to do next.
2. Get serious about your at-home care.
Your role in gum disease prevention is your oral hygiene routine, and it’s an important role. By consistently and adequately cleaning your gums, teeth, and between your teeth, you can help your gums become firm and healthy again. Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes at a time, floss twice a day, and use a mouthwash that’s designed for gingivitis. Flossing is key when it comes to preventing gum disease.
3. Stay away from tobacco.
Believe it or not, tobacco use can actually mask the symptoms of gum disease. Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, which means it constricts blood flow around the body, including to the gum tissue. This decrease in blood flow hides some of the effects of gum disease, such as bleeding and gum discoloration. Less blood flow to the gums also undermines their ability to fight off infection.
4. Eat foods rich in vitamin C.
Did you know that people who are deficient in vitamin C are more likely to develop gingivitis? Vitamin C is good for your teeth because it supports the connective tissue. Some of the foods that are the richest in this necessary vitamin include cantaloupe, citrus fruit, broccoli, kiwi, and bell peppers. Cut up fruits and veggies and keep them in clear containers in the fridge for an easy, delicious snack.
Yes, gingivitis is curable.
Reversing gingivitis and keeping it at bay for the long term all comes down to fast action and prompt treatment. Armed with the knowledge you need, you can now move in the right direction and protect yourself from the consequences of gum disease. The team at Dental Care Associates of Buffalo can help you get your gum health back on track. Schedule your appointment today!