You have heard the word either from your dentist or perhaps a television commercial, but what exactly is gingivitis? Simply put, gingivitis is an inflammation of your gums that occurs due to some sort of irritation. Gingivitis is normally considered to be nondestructive but if left untreated can lead to other more severe problems. It is possible for you to have gingivitis and not even know because many times the symptoms are extremely mild. The most common cause of gingivitis is a failure to maintain a proper oral hygiene program to ensure the health of your teeth and gums. Plaque can build up on your teeth without regular brushing, flossing, and the use of a mouth rinse. Plaque builds up over time from food deposits and bacteria in the mouth and eventually leads to tartar, a hard, scaly deposit forming at the base of your teeth. This plaque and tartar build up is most often the start of the inflammation to your gums.
Poor oral hygiene, however, is not the only possible cause of gingivitis. Any type of physical injury to your gum tissue can also result in swelling and irritation and a common cause of injury to gum tissue is brushing. Brushing is an important part of keeping your mouth healthy, but if it is not done properly it may be causing as much harm as good. The first thing to look at is the type of toothbrush that you are using. Many people prefer a firm toothbrush but this can be irritating to your gums and the best toothbrush to use is one that is made up of soft bristles. Brushing must also not be done too aggressively to avoid damage to the gum tissue. Other health concerns may also cause gingivitis such as diabetes, going through menopause, or the changes in hormone levels experienced by the body during pregnancy.
Gingivitis, at least in its early stages, is normally pain free so you may not be aware of a problem unless you are observant and looking for possible symptoms. The most common first sign is gum tissue that is bright red and swollen. This is usually followed by noticing that your gums bleed a little when you brush. Keep an eye on your toothbrush and the sink as you brush and spit as any sign of a pink color in either of these places is a good indication of bleeding occurring in your mouth. Other early signs of gingivitis include chronic bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth that never seems to go away. As gingivitis progresses more serious symptoms will start to show that are much harder to miss including receding gums, sensitivity to heat or cold, and teeth that progressively loosen and may even fall out.
It is vitally important for the health of your teeth and gums that you take care of them and that you seek the advice of your dentist at the earliest sign that there may be a problem. Your dentist will make several recommendations to reverse the effects of gingivitis and prevent its return starting with maintaining a proper brushing and flossing routine on a daily basis. Regular cleanings are also important for the prevention of gingivitis and you should see your dental hygienist every six months. If your gingivitis does not respond to these methods your dentist may prescribe an antibacterial mouthwash that will help speed up the healing process.