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Gingivitis: Symptoms and Causes in Hudson Valley

What Is the Prevalence of Periodontal Disease?

The initial stage of gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is known as gingivitis. This mild form of gum disease causes inflammation and swelling of the gum tissue and is characterized by puffy, red gums that bleed when you floss or brush. If not treated with regular professional cleanings and good oral health habits at home, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis. This is an advanced stage of gum disease that can lead to tooth loss if not treated by your dentist.

There are many surprising statistics regarding the prevalence of gingivitis and periodontal disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 47% of adults older than 30 have some form of periodontal disease. The estimates are even higher among older adults. According to the CDC, slightly over 70% of people older than 65 have periodontal disease.

Are There Warning Signs of Gingivitis?

Since the early stages of gingivitis are often painless, it can be difficult to determine if you have the condition. Having pink gum tissue that’s snugly attached to your teeth is an indicator of a healthy mouth. However, if you notice any of these symptoms, you might have gingivitis:

  • Receding gums
  • Puffy or swollen gums
  • Gums that bleed while flossing or brushing
  • Purple or dark red gums
  • Development of spaces in between teeth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Increased tooth sensitivity
  • Gums that are painful or tender when touched
  • Loose teeth

How Do You Get Gum Disease?

Plaque, a colorless, sticky film, leads to the development of gingivitis. It consists mostly of bacteria and forms over the surfaces of teeth when carbohydrates and sugars in the foods we eat interact with the bacteria that’s normally present in the mouth. While consistent brushing and flossing will remove plaque from the surfaces of your teeth, plaque is constantly forming. If plaque remains on your teeth, it will accumulate and harden around the gum line into a substance called calculus, also called tartar. Only your dentist or dental hygienist can remove tartar during a professional cleaning.

If plaque and tartar remain on your teeth for a long period of time, the bacteria and toxins present in these substances will irritate your gum tissue. You’ll begin to notice the signs of gingivitis, such as puffy gums that bleed when you brush or floss. As gingivitis progresses, it can lead to periodontitis, a serious infection of the gums, bone, and surrounding tissues.

Are You at Risk for Gingivitis?

Even with consistent brushing and flossing, there are numerous risk factors linked to the development of gingivitis. Here are the most common risk factors:

  • A history of smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Not brushing and flossing every day
  • Having dental appliances, such as bridges or dentures, that don’t fit properly
  • A family history of gingivitis
  • Dry mouth
  • Being 65 and older
  • Crooked teeth that are hard to clean
  • Certain chronic illnesses, including leukemia and other types of cancer, diabetes, or HIV/AIDS
  • Eating an unhealthy diet that’s low in vitamin C
  • Taking certain medications, including birth control pills, calcium channel blockers, anticonvulsants, or receiving chemotherapy
  • Hormonal changes, including during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause

Can Gum Disease Affect My Health?

Periodontal disease isn’t just bad for your teeth and gums, it can also cause problems in other parts of your body. Rather than bacteria being the primary link, researchers at the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) have discovered that inflammation is the causative agent. According to the Mayo Clinic and the AAP, these diseases are strongly linked to periodontal disease:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Cancer
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Stroke
  • Difficulty regulating blood sugar levels
  • Respiratory disease

Can Gingivitis Be Prevented?

Controlling the development of plaque is essential in preventing gingivitis and gum disease. Good dental hygiene at home includes brushing and flossing at least once a day. Daily brushing removes plaque from the surface of your teeth, and flossing removes plaque and particles of food from under the gum line and between teeth. Not using tobacco products and eating foods high in antioxidants are lifestyle changes you can make to prevent gingivitis.

Receiving professional cleanings and exams from your dentist can also help to prevent the buildup of plaque and keep your teeth and gums healthy. If you have a healthy mouth and don’t have any risk factors for gingivitis, you’ll usually see your dentist and hygienist twice a year for cleanings and exams. If you have dry mouth, regularly smoke, or have any other known risk factors for gum disease, you’ll likely need to be seen more frequently.

How to Treat Gum Disease

If you only have a mild case of gingivitis, the condition can be treated and successfully reversed with a professional cleaning at our dental office. You’ll also need to be persistent with maintaining good oral health at home by brushing and flossing each day.

When gingivitis progresses to an advanced stage, it can develop into a severe infection of the gum tissue called periodontitis. A deep-cleaning procedure called scaling and root planing is required to treat the infection and prevent tooth loss. During the procedure, your dentist will use special dental tools to remove plaque and tartar above and below the gum tissue. In addition, the rough surfaces of the tooth roots are smoothed, which helps the gums fit more firmly around your teeth and prevents further growth of bacteria. After scaling and root planing, you’ll need to schedule several follow-up maintenance visits and be diligent about brushing and flossing at home.

Please don’t hesitate to make an appointment at our office if you’re noticing any of the symptoms associated with gingivitis. Our dentists can thoroughly examine your teeth and gums and explain what you can do to help prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease.

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