So, you’ve heard the dreaded “you have gingivitis.” It sounds a bit daunting, so what’s next?
Is that it? Are you doomed to have bad gums forever?
Absolutely not. You can reverse gingivitis! But to do so, it’s important to understand what gingivitis is and how to prevent it, so let’s look at the facts.
What is Gingivitis?
We can spot gingivitis by checking the color of and looking for swelling and bleeding in the gums. Healthy gums are pink, firm, not swollen, and do not bleed. When you have gingivitis, the gums turn red, swell up, and bleed easily. Contrary to popular opinion, brushing “too hard” or having “just flossed” will not cause healthy gums to bleed.
Gingivitis is the body’s response to too many bacteria hanging around the gums for a long period of time. You may have heard of plaque. Plaque is a large collection of bacteria, and if your teeth feel “rough” or “fuzzy,” you definitely have too much of it hanging around your mouth. Plaque is very soft and sticky, so it will not wash away with saliva or mouthwash. It must be physically brushed and flossed away.
What’s Happening in The Body During Gingivitis Infections?
Your body mounts an immune response to the overgrowth of bacteria in your mouth. When too much bacteria is present, your body sends messages to the special white blood cells that fight infection to come help fight the bacteria. The problem is, the bacteria hasn’t actually invaded the body, as it is just sitting on top or in between the gums, so the bacteria stay somewhat unharmed, but not entirely. What happens, though, is that the gums become red and swollen from the arrival of fighter cells that have come to battle the germs. As long as the bacteria sticks around, the gums stay red and swollen.
You can also think of it like this: an army is using all the weapons it has available to beat the bad guys. The only problem is that they end up destroying buildings and hurting innocent bystanders. That is what happens to your gums when you have gingivitis. The gums bleed easily and can be quite tender. If gingivitis is left untreated, we may eventually see destruction of the supporting structures around the teeth.
I Brush Every Day, So Why Do I Have Gingivitis?
Sometimes plain old brushing is just not enough. Here are some reasons you may have gingivitis even though you brush your teeth every day.
- Poor brushing or flossing techniques
- Toothbrush is worn out
- You’re not flossing
- You have health conditions that make you more susceptible to infection
I Was Fine at My Last Check-Up, So What Changed?
If you’re usually in good shape, sometimes stress can be the culprit. An overload of negative stress decreases the body’s immune response to infection, and your body may not mount its usual defense. We also notice that vacations, home renovations, and difficult life transitions can sometimes cause us to not take as good of care of our teeth and gums and we normally might.
On rare occasions, gingivitis could be a sign that something else is going on health-wise that needs to be checked by your medical doctor. Cancer, diabetes, anemia, and certain medications are common causes.
What Happens if I Don’t Treat Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the first step in the development of gum disease. It is reversable, but if it’s not treated, it can develop into periodontitis, which is irreversible. Periodontitis is a serious form of gum disease that destroys the attachments of the gums to the bone and the bone supporting your teeth. We can detect periodontitis with special measuring tools and checking your dental x-rays to see if you’ve lost any bone. Once you develop periodontitis, it is no longer reversable, but you can help prevent further damage.
Gingivitis is a form of inflammation in the gums. You may have heard that levels of higher inflammation in the body lead to poorer health and conditions like heart disease and stroke. The inflammation in your mouth can physically travel throughout your body and could possibly affect or worsen other health conditions, so it’s important to treat gingivitis as soon as possible.
What Steps Do I Take to Reverse Gingivitis?
The first step to reverse gingivitis is to have your teeth cleaned by your dental hygienist. The cleaning involves removal of plaque (the soft stuff) and tartar (the hard stuff that plaque calcifies into). It’s important to note that any plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing will harden into tartar and become semi-permanently stuck to the teeth. Tartar is porous, like a sponge, and will continue to attract more plaque. It will grow larger and further irritate the gums until it is removed. Tartar can only be removed by your dental professional, so brushing and flossing will not take it off. This part of the process is extremely important to re-establishing good gum health. Your dental hygienist is basically providing you with a clean slate to work with.
The next step to reversing gingivitis is using the right tools you need to keep plaque and tartar at bay. At the least, you should be using a soft toothbrush and flossing every day. You may have dental work that requires some special oral hygiene aids. If you have bridges, implants, or partial dentures, be sure to ask our dental hygienist about things like threaders, water flossers, or other resources.
How Do I Keep My Gums Healthy Going Forward?
You should be brushing your teeth at least twice a day, preferably after meals. You should also floss once per day. Discussing proper techniques with our hygienist is important, and make sure not to rush your daily cleaning sessions. It will also help if you can eat healthy foods, and lower stress in your life, to support your immune system.
The team at Canal Vista Family Dental in Princeton will be happy to walk you through the process of understanding your gum condition and taking the steps you need to get healthy again. Call us today!