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Posted on: July 9, 2020
Gingivitis: Symptoms and Causes in Arlington, VA
Gum Disease Statistics
You’ve likely heard of gingivitis, but did you know that it affects nearly half of people over the age of 30? This is according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You might be even more surprised to learn that approximately 70% of people over 65 years old have some form of gum disease, according to the CDC.
The earliest stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis. Gum disease can also be called periodontal disease. If you have gingivitis, your gums can become very irritated, often appearing red in color and noticeably swollen and tender. It can even cause your gums to bleed while you’re brushing or flossing your teeth. It’s important to treat gingivitis right away to prevent the development of periodontitis, a serious infection that can lead to tooth loss.
Are There Warning Signs of Gingivitis?
It’s possible to have gum disease and not be aware of its symptoms since gingivitis rarely causes pain in the early stages. If your gums aren’t receding, fit securely over your teeth, and are pink in color, you likely have healthy gum tissue. If you have any of these symptoms, you might have gingivitis:
- Puffy or swollen gums
- Development of spaces in between teeth
- Gums that are dark red or purple in color
- Receding gums
- Persistent bad breath
- Gums that bleed while flossing or brushing
- Loose teeth
- Gums that are painful or tender when touched
- Increased tooth sensitivity
- Loose teeth
What Causes Gum Disease?
Gingivitis and gum disease are typically caused by plaque that accumulates on teeth due to poor oral hygiene. Plaque is mostly composed of bacteria, and it’s a sticky film that builds up on teeth. This colorless coating can be removed by regular brushing and flossing, but you must maintain good oral health habits because plaque develops on teeth every day. As a result of eating and drinking foods containing sugar or starch, plaque is constantly forming on your teeth. If you fail to brush and floss each day, plaque can quickly harden into tartar. Also known as calculus deposits, you can’t remove tartar on your own, so you must have a professional dental cleaning for removal.
If tartar isn’t removed by your dentist or hygienist, it will continue to accumulate, leading to the irritation and inflammation of the gums commonly seen in people with gingivitis. Untreated gingivitis causes further damage and can progress to periodontitis, an infection that can lead to tooth loss if not treated by a dentist.
Gum Disease Risk Factors
Research has shown that a wide variety of factors can increase your risk of gum disease, such as:
- Family history
- Frequent smoking or chewing tobacco
- Poor oral hygiene habits
- Being 65 and older
- Dry mouth
- Dental bridges, dentures or other restorations that no longer fit properly
- Having crowded teeth or alignment issues that make it difficult to brush and floss
- Eating a diet low in fruits and vegetables, especially inadequate vitamin C intake
- Receiving chemotherapy or taking certain medications, including birth control pills, calcium channel blockers, and anticonvulsants
- Certain chronic illnesses, including leukemia and other types of cancer, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS
- Fluctuating hormone levels during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause
How Can Gingivitis Affect Your Health?
Periodontal disease can affect your body in areas other than your teeth and gums. Many studies have found a link between periodontal disease and several health problems. Until recent research by the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) found that inflammation in the body was the cause, it had been previously thought that there was a link between bacteria and these health problems. Studies conducted at the Mayo Clinic and the AAP have found that there is a link between gum disease and the following health problems:
- Respiratory disease
- Heart disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Steps to Prevent Gum Disease
Developing and maintaining a good oral hygiene regimen at home is very important in preventing gum disease. Ideally, you should brush your teeth in the morning and again before you go to sleep, making sure to brush for at least two minutes every time. Flossing once a day removes debris and plaque from your teeth. Other tips for preventing gum disease include rinsing with mouthwash, following a healthy diet, and avoiding smoking or tobacco products.
While all of these steps are great ways to maintain the health of your teeth and gums, they aren’t a substitute for seeing your dentist regularly. During a professional cleaning, your hygienist removes tartar and plaque before they can irritate and inflame the gum tissue. While most people see their dentist twice a year, you might need more frequent dental visits if you have certain risk factors for gum disease, such as being a frequent smoker or having a dry mouth.
When gingivitis is discovered early, it can be successfully treated and reversed with a professional dental cleaning. This will eliminate bacteria on the surfaces of teeth and remove plaque beneath the gum line before they can irritate and inflame the gum tissues. You’ll also need to follow your dentist’s instructions regarding how often you should brush and floss at home.
Scaling and root planing is a deep-cleaning treatment that halts the progression of gum disease and prevents tooth loss. Scaling is a treatment that removes tartar, plaque, and bacteria from the surface of each tooth, including under the gum line. During the root planing portion of treatment, bacteria, plaque, and other harmful substances are removed from the roots of each tooth. This creates a smooth surface that makes it difficult for bacteria and plaque to adhere. Combined with good oral health habits at home, scaling and root planing is a very effective treatment for periodontitis.
Get in touch with our friendly team today to schedule a professional examination and cleaning, to learn more about preventing gingivitis, your treatment options, and more. Call us today!