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Gingivitis: Symptoms and Causes in Florida

How Common Is Gum Disease?

If you have gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease and periodontal disease, you are certainly not alone. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that nearly half of all adults older than 30 have periodontal disease. The prevalence of gingivitis and gum disease also increases as you get older. The CDC estimates that more than 70% of adults 65 and older have periodontal disease in some form.

Gingivitis results in inflammation of the soft tissue that surrounds teeth, causing them to appear red and puffy in appearance. You may even notice some bleeding when you brush or floss. If not treated promptly, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis. This is considered a serious infection that may cause tooth loss if not treated.

Common Symptoms of Gingivitis?

Recognizing the signs of gingivitis can be difficult because it usually doesn’t produce symptoms in the early stages. Unlike gum tissue that’s red and swollen, healthy gums are pink in color and fit tightly against your teeth. The following symptoms are signs of gingivitis and require the care of a dentist:

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

What Are the Causes of Gingivitis?

Bacterial plaque leads to gingivitis and gum disease. Plaque is a sticky, colorless film that adheres to teeth and usually forms around the gum line. Every time you eat and drink, the sugars and starches found in many foods and drinks interact with the bacteria that’s in your mouth, leading to the development of plaque. Daily brushing and flossing removes plaque, but since it’s constantly forming on teeth, it’s crucial to maintain good oral health habits at home. If plaque isn’t removed on a daily basis, it can harden into calculus deposits, also called tartar. Only your dental health professional can remove hardened tartar around the gum line.

Bacteria present in plaque are very irritating to the gum tissues, and this can lead to gingivitis. You may start to notice swollen gums or some blood when you brush or floss. If the irritation is prolonged, gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease and an infection of the underlying bone and soft tissue, which is known as periodontitis.

Who Is at Risk for Gingivitis?

Now that you know that the development of plaque is the main cause of gingivitis, you might be surprised to learn that there are many risk factors associated with gum disease, including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Failing to brush and floss each day
  • Being 65 and older
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Genetics
  • Crooked teeth that make it difficult to brush and floss
  • Wearing dentures, bridges, or other dental appliances that don’t fit properly
  • Receiving chemotherapy or taking certain medications, including birth control pills, calcium channel blockers, and anticonvulsants
  • Hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause
  • Certain chronic illnesses, including leukemia and other types of cancer, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS
  • Consuming an unhealthy diet with an inadequate amount of vitamin C

What Are the Health Risks of Gingivitis?

If you have periodontal disease, you might be at an increased risk for more than tooth loss. Years of research have identified an association between periodontal disease and several health conditions. In fact, researchers at the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) have found that inflammation of the gum tissue can have an effect on other areas of the body. Here are some of the health problems that are linked to periodontal disease, according to the Mayo Clinic and the AAP:

  • Stroke
  • Cancer
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Difficulty regulating blood sugar levels
  • Respiratory disease
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Osteoporosis

The Best Ways to Prevent Gum Disease

Although there are many things that can increase your risk of gum disease, there are steps you can take to protect the health of your teeth and gums. Brushing your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes each time can remove food particles and plaque from the surface of your teeth, and flossing daily can remove plaque and bacteria from places that are harder to reach by brushing alone. Rinsing with mouthwash, eating a well-balanced diet, and not using tobacco products can also help to prevent gum disease.

Scheduling regular appointments at your dentist’s office can also help prevent gingivitis and gum disease. Professional cleanings will remove plaque and tartar from your teeth before it irritates the gum tissue. It’s common to see your dentist every six months, but you may need more frequent visits if you have risk factors, such as dry mouth and smoking.

Treating Gum Disease

Gum disease begins as gingivitis, which is reversible if you commit to brushing and flossing your teeth every day and receiving a dental cleaning in our office. If you don’t maintain consistent oral health care at home, plaque and bacteria will continue to accumulate, which can lead to periodontitis.

Periodontitis is an infection of the gums that can lead to tooth loss if not treated. Scaling and root planing, which is also called a deep cleaning, is the standard treatment for periodontitis. During this treatment, your dentist will remove all of the plaque, tartar, and bacteria that have developed under the gum line. Small tools are also used to remove any buildup along the tooth roots, which promotes the reattachment of gum tissue to the teeth. Maintenance treatments will be needed to ensure that the infection isn’t spreading.

Since it’s possible to have gingivitis without having any symptoms, it’s important to schedule regular visits with a dentist. To schedule a dental examination and professional cleaning, call us today to make an appointment.

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