Gingivitis refers to inflammation of the gums. Gums (or gingiva) along with the bones and ligaments form the supporting structure of the teeth. Once they get swollen, there is redness, puffiness, and bleeding of gums. But, in most cases, it is treatable and reversible.
When left untreated, it can lead to a more serious condition called periodontitis, in which there is a disease process in all the supporting structures, thereby leading to loss of teeth.
Causes of Gingivitis
- Formation of dental plaque: Plaque is a thin biofilm that forms on our tooth surfaces every day. It consists of several different bacteria, as well as organic and inorganic constituents. Plaque is a soft deposit that can be removed by maintaining good oral hygiene practices such as brushing, flossing and using mouthwash. But, when it is not followed properly, it can calcify over time to form a hard deposit known as calculus or tartar, which can only be removed by an oral health professional through a simple procedure known as scaling. Plaque and calculus can irritate the gums causing gingival inflammation and bleeding. They can lead to tooth decay as well.
- Hormonal changes: During the menstrual cycle or pregnancy, there are hormonal changes which cause the gums to become tender and cause them to swell.
- Diseases: Certain conditions such as xerostomia, leukemia, diabetes and HIV/AIDS cause swelling of the gums.
- Drugs: Certain medications given for epilepsy and high blood pressure, and even birth control pills cause gingival swelling.
- Smoking: Chronic smokers tend to develop gum changes due to the effect of the heat and toxins.
- Vitamin C deficiency: Scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) is linked to inflammation of gums.
Symptoms of Gingivitis
- Swollen gums.
- Redness and tenderness.
- Gums bleed easily.
- Bad odor in the mouth.
- Gum recession.
Prevention and Treatment
Once there is build up of deposits on the teeth causing swelling, the only way it can be treated is by getting a professional cleaning (scaling) done. After a round of scaling, the inflammation will gradually subside, after which you can take measures to maintain oral hygiene at home every day.
- Brush your teeth (with the correct technique) twice a day.
- Floss your teeth once a day.
- Schedule a regular dental check-up every six months to one year depending on the risk factors involved.
- Eat healthy, fibrous greens which have natural cleansing actions and also include lots of vitamin-C rich foods in your diet.
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