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Gingivitis is a mild and common form of gum disease that causes the gums to become inflamed, red and irritated. As gingivitis is often mild, people may be unaware that they have it, but it is important to take the condition seriously and ensure that prompt treatment is received before it leads to a more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis. According to the American Dental Association, gingivitis and periodontitis are leading causes of tooth loss in adults.
Healthy gums are pale, pink and firm, whereas gums affected by gingivitis become swollen, tender, darkish red and tend to bleed easily. Most gum swelling occurs as the result of bacterial plaque, a film of debris that accumulates along the gum line and teeth surfaces and begins to build up underneath the gum pocket, if it is not regularly removed. This plaque infection of the gums trigger an immune response which causes the gum tissue to become inflamed. If left unchecked, gingivitis can eventually cause the gums to detach from the teeth, exposing the soft tissue and supportive bone to injury. The teeth can then become loose and if the infection progresses, it will ultimately lead to tooth loss.
Most individuals experience some degree of gum disease at some point in their life and approximately 50% of adults have gum disease to some extent.
Symptoms of gingivitis include the following:
Gingivitis is usually caused by poor oral hygiene and by maintaining good oral health through regular teeth cleaning, daily flossing and attending dental check ups, gingivitis can be prevented.
During a dental examination, the dentist usually carries out a number of procedures to check for gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis can be diagnosed early on in routine dental examinations and involves the following:
To treat gingivitis, people must maintain good oral hygiene. There are several techniques that can be used to deep clean the teeth and these include scaling, where tartar is removed from below and above the gum line; root planing, which smoothes any rough areas and removes infected parts of the tooth and laser treatment, which is a less painful way of removing tartar than root planing or scaling. Several medications are also available to help treat the condition including time-release antiseptic chips which are inserted into gum pockets after root planing; antibiotic microspheres, which are inserted after either scaling or root planing and oral antibiotics, which are used to treat persistent inflammation. An antibiotic mouthwash that contains chlorhexidine can also be used to clear the mouth of infection.
Severe gum disease may require surgery. Flap surgery may be performed, where the gums are folded back so that plaque can be removed. The gums are then fixed back in place snugly around the tooth. Tissue or bone grafts may be carried out to treat cases where the teeth and jaw are beyond healing.