Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. You may also know gingivitis as gum disease. Common symptoms of gingivitis are inflammation, redness, tenderness or bleeding of the gums. Gingivitis is caused by plaque buildup over a long period of time. After a certain amount of time the plaque will become tartar. Both tartar and plaque irritate the gums causing gingivitis to occur. It is a major cause of tooth decay. The longer you have gingivitis the more tender and swollen your gums will get. Things like brushing and flossing may also cause your gums to bleed, but will help remove your gingivitis over time. It is important to remember that overly brushing or flossing your teeth can also raise your chances of getting gingivitis.

If you have poor dental hygiene, diabetes, or pregnancy you have a higher chance of having gingivitis. Women who are pregnant have a higher chance of gingivitis due to more sensitive gums.

Your chances of getting gingivitis can increase if you have anything in your mouth that can irritate your gums. Things like edges of fillings, braces or misaligned teeth can irritate your gums over time and cause gingivitis to occur.

Misaligned teeth, rough edges of fillings, and ill-fitting or unclean mouth appliances (such as braces, dentures, bridges, and crowns) can irritate the gums and increase the risk of gingivitis.

Certain medication can also raise your chances of gingivitis. Medications such as birth control pills and heavy metals such as lead and bismuth are also associated are with gingivitis.

Some common symptoms of gingivitis are bleeding gums. Gums that are tender when touched, but otherwise painless, mouth sores, swollen gums, and a shiny appearance to gums.

If you feel that you have gingivitis the best person to contact would be your dentist. Your dentist will be able to examine your gums to see if they are swollen, soft or tender. They will also be able to tell if you have any deposits of plaque and tartar on your teeth that could be causing your gingivitis.

No further testing is usually necessary, although dental x-rays and dental bone measurements may be done to determine whether the inflammation has spread to the supporting structures of the teeth. The teeth are cleaned thoroughly by the dentist or dental hygienist. This may involve various instruments or devices to loosen and remove deposits from the teeth.

Careful oral hygiene is necessary after professional tooth cleaning. The dentist or hygienist will show you how to brush and floss. Professional tooth cleaning in addition to brushing and flossing may be recommended twice per year or more frequently for severe cases. Antibacterial mouth rinses or other aids may be recommended in addition to frequent, careful, tooth brushing and flossing.

Repair of misaligned teeth or replacement of dental and orthodontic appliances may be recommended. Any other related illnesses or conditions should be treated.

Gums should lessen within 1 or 2 weeks after professional cleaning and careful oral hygiene. Warm salt water or antibacterial rinses can reduce the puffiness. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications will ease any discomfort from a rigorous cleaning.

When to contact a dentist

Call your dentist if symptoms of gingivitis are present, especially if you have not had a routine cleaning and examination in the last 6 months. Call your health care provider if the dentist recommends medical treatment of underlying conditions that contribute to the development of gingivitis.

How to Prevent Gingivitis

Good oral hygiene is the best prevention against gingivitis because it removes the plaque that causes the disorder. The teeth should be brushed at least twice daily and flossed gently at least once per day. For people who are prone to gingivitis, brushing and flossing may be recommended after every meal and at bedtime. Consult the dentist or dental hygienist for instructions on proper brushing and flossing techniques.

Special appliances or tools may be recommended by the dentist for use by people who are particularly prone to plaque deposits. The use of supplements does not replace thorough brushing and flossing. Appliances and tools may include special toothpicks, toothbrushes, water irrigation, or other devices.

Antiplaque or anti-tartar toothpastes or mouth rinses may be recommended by the dentist or dental hygienist.