The dreaded statement “You have gingivitis” is one of the last things anyone wants to hear while sitting in the dentist’s chair. While gingivitis is the most common non-contagious disease in the world, it can be so mild you may not even know you have the condition. Unfortunately, this disease can lead to more serious gum disease (also known as periodontitis) down the road, and potentially tooth loss.
You may be feeling the urge to stop everything you’re doing to go brush your teeth – and you’d be right to do so. Because gingivitis can be so sneaky, it’s important to take it seriously and treat it promptly. Here are the top 10 giveaways that gingivitis might be lurking in your mouth.
- Swollen gums
- Soft gums
- Bleeding gums
- Receding gums
- Tender gums, even just sometimes
- Painful gums
- Pink or red on your toothbrush and floss
- Gums that bleed easily
- Healthy pink gums change to beefy red
- Foul breath
What Causes Gingivitis (And How Can I Prevent It)?
The most common cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene that helps plaque form. When you’re not brushing twice a day, flossing daily – that’s right, daily – and regularly visiting your dentist, gingivitis can creep into your mouth, causing bacteria to multiply. When bacteria invade the soft gum tissue, they have the potential to cause an infection. When plaque sits on your tooth and not brushed away, it can harden under your gum line, making it more difficult to remove with simple brushing and flossing. The longer plaque remains, the more it irritates the part of your gum around the base of your teeth. Over time, this can cause painful and bleeding gums. The seriousness of gingivitis ranges from mild discomfort with some tenderness and swelling to receding gums and permanent damage. Some physicians even link it to rheumatoid arthritis. Yikes!
What Should I Do if I Have Gingivitis?
Let’s tackle the simplest task first. For gingivitis with mild symptoms, work with your dentist to help get rid of the hardened plaque that is unreachable with a normal toothbrush. Your dentist will likely send you home with a new toothbrush, special toothpaste, and a new dental routine. Once you maintain a steady routine of brushing and flossing, adding regular dental visits should be enough to prevent gingivitis.
What if you have more serious gingivitis? You’ll definitely want to schedule an appointment with your dentist or physician. He or she may prescribe antibiotics to fight bacterial infection and reduce plaque.