Gingivitis – What is it?

What is Gingivitis?


Gingivitis: The early warning.

I’ve noticed recently that a lot of individuals have a bit of a misconception in regards to what exactly gingivitis is. Reactions to being told they have gingivitis have ranged from almost stark terror to confusion. There seems to be a general idea that gingivitis is really rare and if you have it, it’s a terrible, terrible thing. This is not necessarily so. It’s not quite as terrible as full-blown, severe gum disease and it does (sort of) act as an early warning.

Gingivitis is the very early form of the aforementioned full-blown, severe gum disease. It’s usually characterized (like in other parts of the body) by redness and swelling, and in the case of the gums, bleeding. It is also very common. In fact, about half of the adults in the United States have gingivitis. The infection comes from bacteria in the form of plaque and hard plaque buildup (dental calculus) sitting on and around the teeth. The bacteria are the culprits. This is why we brush our teeth and why you SHOULD floss. In fact, let me give you a little analogy: Picture a room. Four walls, a ceiling and a floor. Throughout the history of this room you only really clean the ceiling and the front and back walls. Also picture food and drink being thrown all over all of the walls and the ceiling, fairly regularly. The result of the above is basically what it would be like to not floss your teeth. Your brush will clean three sides of the teeth, but what about the side “walls”? That’s what the floss is for! If you don’t floss regularly and keep the space in between your teeth clean, infection can (and usually does) occur.

Not keeping the area between the teeth clean will lead to gum disease, the earliest stage being gingivitis. Usually your only warning is; red, swollen, and bleeding gums. If the gingivitis continues untreated for much longer you will actually start developing pockets around your teeth. This is because part of the bodies design is to remove infected areas of the body. In the case of the mouth, it (your body) thinks that the tooth is to blame for the infection and will try to eject the tooth! The bone around the tooth will start to, in essence, dissolve, in an effort to get rid of the tooth (see the picture above). You don’t need to let it get that bad though. If you are persistent with flossing in between your teeth and get regular professional cleanings you can “nip it in the bud” fairly easily.

Ways to prevent gingivitis:

Brushing twice a day and flossing at least once every day will go a long way in ensuring that infection in your gums stays as minimal as possible. Professional cleanings are the only real way to ensure buildup from areas that are hard to clean are removed. In fact, if plaque is left on the teeth for as little as 24 hours, it can harden to the point that it can only be removed by use of special instruments. That is one of the reasons your dentist wants you to come in to see him at least twice a year; so you don’t leave plaque and build-up to remain on your teeth.

There is also a special oral hygiene piece of equipment that allows you to shoot a jet of water in between the teeth to help remove plaque and food. You can probably find this at a local drug store. For people who have larger space in between their teeth, they have very small, bristled brushes that you can push between the teeth to clean them. In some cases they work even better than floss.

Mouthwash is useful for killing bacteria inside your mouth. The only thing is, try to use mouthwash without alcohol in it. Alcohol has a tendency to dry out your mouth which will make it easier for food and other bacteria to stick to your teeth and cause damage.

Well, I hoped that I helped clear up the subject of gingivitis. If you do have any other questions, please, feel free to comment down below.

Stay healthy my friends!



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