Gum problems: Gingivitis

There are two types of conditions that can affect the gums: gingivitis and periodontitis. These gum problems or periodontal diseases are often painless and can remain in the mouth for a long time before they are discovered. However, it can lead to serious gum problems. With the right care, these conditions are easy to treat. What is gingivitis and how can it be treated? Periodontal (gum) disease is inflammation and infection that destroys the tissues of the teeth, including the gums, the periodontal tendons and the supporting junction with the tooth (jaw bone). Gingivitis and periodontitis are quite common in adults and can be stopped or reduced with effective care.


Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can lead to serious periodontitis (gum disease) without proper treatment. It is characterized by red and irritated gums. Gingivitis is very common and comes in many different varieties. About 50 percent of the population experiences gum disease on four or more teeth. Those at increased risk are

  • People with poor oral hygiene
  • People who are less educated
  • Smokers
  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Elderly
  • Pregnant women
  • People with reduced immunity
  • People with poor nutrition
  • Addicts
  • People who rarely or never go to the dentist.

Gingivitis is mainly caused by poor oral hygiene. By not maintaining your teeth properly, plaque develops on the teeth. Plaque is an invisible, sticky substance that develops on the teeth when sugars and starches in food interact with normal bacteria in the mouth. It develops quickly and it is therefore important to brush and floss every day to remove plaque. If the plaque is not removed, it will convert into tartar, a harder form, after a few days. Both plaque and tartar inflame the gums and produce bacteria and toxins that contaminate the gums and cause gingivitis. In addition to poor oral hygiene, gingivitis can be caused by:

  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Some autoimmune diseases and infections, such as thyroid disorders, nutrient deficiencies or HIV infection
  • Certain medications, such as phenytoin (used to control seizures), bismuth (used to treat stomach upset and diarrhea, as in Pepto-Bismol)
  • Some birth control pills
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Rough, sharp fillings
  • Poorly fitting or unclean mouth appliances

Pregnant women have an increased risk of gingivitis due to the major changes in hormones in the body. This makes the gums extra sensitive to developing gum problems. But due to hormone fluctuations, adolescents and young adults also have an increased risk of gingivitis.


Healthy gums are characterized by a light pink color and feel firm. Because gingivitis is not usually painful, many people do not realize it is present or that they have a problem.
The symptoms of gingivitis are:

  • Bleeding gums, even with gentle brushing
  • Sensitive gums, especially when touched
  • Bright red, dark red or purple-red gums
  • Swollen gums
  • Mouth sores
  • Very shiny gums
  • Bad breath


The best way to prevent gingivitis is good oral hygiene. It is recommended to brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once a day. Teeth should also be professionally cleaned by a dentist every six months. If symptoms are particularly bad, dentists may recommend brushing and flossing after every meal and before bed. They may also recommend plaque-removing devices such as special toothbrushes and toothpicks. Prescription anti-plaque and anti-tartar toothpastes and rinses can also help.


Although gingivitis usually reduces after a professional cleaning, good oral hygiene will need to be continued at home. The symptoms will quickly return if you do not take good care of your dental hygiene and do not have a professional cleaning at least twice a year. During such a cleaning, the dentist or dental hygienist will remove all plaque and tartar in a process called “scaling”. If the gum disease is severe and there is a lot of tartar present, one to four deep cleanings (scaling and root planing) may sometimes be necessary to get the gums healthy again. The dentist will also look for incorrectly positioned teeth or poorly fitting fillings, such as crowns or bridges.

Drugstore prescriptions or prescription mouthwash can also help. There are toothpastes and mouthwashes that help control plaque to an acceptable level. Despite this, there are no chemicals or medications that alone can prevent gingivitis.

read more

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  • Cavities or tooth decay in teeth: symptoms and treatment
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  • Inflamed tooth: Cause, symptoms and treatment

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