There are many different factors to keep track of when you’re planning for a lifetime of good oral health. While most people think of their teeth first and foremost, the health of your gums is just as important. The prevention and treatment of gingivitis can protect you from the serious long-term impact of periodontitis.

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease. Gum disease, also called periodontitis, is the infection of the gums by bacteria in your mouth. These bacteria are always present but can grow in larger numbers and lead to a wide range of issues as they penetrate below the gumline.

At this earliest stage, there are elevated numbers of bacteria around the gum line. These bacteria cause irritation and inflammation, which can cause pain and swelling. As the gum disease progresses from gingivitis to advanced stages, the condition becomes much more serious.

If it is left untreated, gum disease can cause the gums to lift away from the teeth, creating pockets. These pockets are the perfect place for bacteria to grow, as they are protected from brushing and even routine dental hygiene cleanings. Unless special intervention is taken, the condition will continue to get worse.

As the bacteria penetrate deeper, they start to weaken the tissue and bone around your teeth. This ultimately leads to tooth loss. Gum disease can also lead to infections in other areas of the body and is also associated with increased risks for a range of conditions, including cardiovascular disease.

How can I tell if I have gingivitis?

Some of the main signs of gingivitis include swollen gums, bleeding gums, and bad breath. The serious complications of gum disease only occur once the disease has progressed.

These complications can be avoided by treating the condition while it’s still at the stage of gingivitis. However, you’ll first have to identify the signs of gingivitis before you take action.

If you’re keeping up with routine dental evaluations, your dentist should be able to spot signs of inflammation during the very early stages of gingivitis. The condition can also make gums hurt, cause swelling, and lead to bleeding gums. If gum disease has already started to progress, you can also notice a receding gum line.

Another one of the telltale signs of gingivitis is halitosis, or persistent bad breath. The bacteria responsible for the condition also produce a foul smell. However, keep in mind that any of these symptoms can be subtle. Gingivitis is often called “the silent killer” because of how far it can progress before any symptoms are noticed.

What causes gingivitis?

Gingivitis is caused by bacteria in your mouth. These are the same bacteria responsible for tooth decay. Good oral hygiene and routine dental cleanings are usually enough to keep their levels in check, but they can sometimes grow in greater numbers and cause gingivitis.

Dry mouth is one of the most significant contributing factors involved in gum disease. Dry mouth occurs when you don’t produce enough saliva to wash away food residue. The remaining food in your mouth provides nutrients for bacteria. There are several factors that can contribute to dry mouth, notably sleep apnea and old age.

A lack of proper brushing and flossing can also contribute to gingivitis. This allows more bacteria to grow and form plaque deposits that can’t be removed even by brushing. Routine dental cleanings remove plaque, so it’s important to keep up with scheduled visits to your dentist.

What can I do about gingivitis?

Prevention is the best method for stopping gingivitis and keeping it from progressing to periodontitis. Maintaining good oral hygiene and visiting your dentist regularly is enough to prevent gingivitis in most patients.

But if you do wind up with this condition, there is a range of gum disease treatments that can be used to combat gingivitis after the condition has progressed.

Deep cleaning teeth is one of the most effective interventions. Your dentist will use special tools to remove plaque and bacteria developing below the gum line. They’ll also carry out root scaling, which smooths the surface of teeth to prevent future bacteria from taking hold.

Antibiotics are another potential treatment option for dealing with gum disease by reducing the levels of bacteria in your mouth. When gum disease has progressed significantly, treatments like gum contouring or gum grafts may be necessary to restore the affected area.

There is also flap surgery, a procedure that cuts the gums to clean and remove bacteria that have penetrated deep below the gum line.

Get proactive about your oral health.

Do you want to take the best possible care of your long-term oral health? Millennium Dental can provide for all of your dental needs, from routine evaluations to gingivitis and gum disease treatment. To get reliable care from a dentist near Plano, TX, schedule your appointment today.