Gum disease is prevalent in the US, affecting about half of all American adults. It gets more common with age. By age 65, more than two-thirds of adults have gum disease. For most people, this means they have gingivitis, a less severe form of the disease.
People should take gingivitis symptoms as a warning that it’s time to get professional care to protect their teeth, oral health, and overall health. Rice Dentistry is ready to help you treat gum diseases, including gingivitis and periodontitis.
What Is Gingivitis
Gingivitis is a form of gum disease, also called periodontal disease. “Periodontal” means “around the teeth,” where gum disease occurs. In gum disease, harmful bacteria colonize the area around your teeth–the space between your gums and teeth.
Bacteria that infect these spaces can attack your gum tissue. This can cause the area to grow around the teeth, making room for more bacteria and worsening the infection. Your body also responds to the infection, sending blood and immune factors to the area. Many gingivitis symptoms relate to your body’s immune response, not the infection.
Who Is at Risk for Gingivitis?
As we noted above, gingivitis is a widespread condition. However, some factors significantly impact your gingivitis risk. Some common risk factors include:
- Being older
- Being a man
- Having a family history of gum disease
- Having certain bacteria in your mouth
- Being a pregnant woman
- Eating a diet rich in carbohydrates
- Having crooked teeth
- Practicing poor oral hygiene
- Smoking or using smokeless tobacco
- Taking certain medications
- Having diabetes
- Not seeing a dentist regularly
As you can see, this list is a mix of modifiable risk factors and those you can’t control. However, it is probably more modifiable than it seems. Men, for example, likely have a higher risk of gingivitis in part because they are less likely to brush their teeth or see the dentist as frequently as women.
Quitting smoking is a powerful way to reduce your gingivitis risk. You should also look carefully at your diet to determine if you might eat differently to improve your periodontal health.
How to Identify Gingivitis
It isn’t always easy to identify gingivitis. The symptoms aren’t apparent at first, but you should watch for:
- Red gums
- Swollen gums
- Sensitive gums
- Gums that bleed when you eat, brush, or floss
- Bad breath or foul taste in your mouth
You might not find it easy to identify red and swollen gums. To help, you can look at different regions in your mouth. If your gums are redder and puffier in some places than others, then it’s likely that those areas are affected by gum disease.
It’s not normal for your gums to hurt or bleed when touching, eating, brushing, or flossing. If your gums hurt or bleed over the day, that’s not normal and needs a dentist’s attention.
When to See a Dentist for Gingivitis Treatment
Gingivitis is not a condition that requires an emergency or even an urgent appointment with your dentist. If you have a scheduled checkup and cleaning appointment in the next few weeks or months, you can address gingivitis with your dentist unless something changes.
However, you should make an appointment with your dentist if:
- You haven’t seen your dentist within the last six months
- You are at elevated risk for gum disease
- Gingivitis symptoms interfere with daily life
- Health conditions put you at higher risk for periodontitis
- You experience periodontitis symptoms
Gingivitis is a warning sign that you may soon experience serious periodontal disease. It’s essential to take the warning seriously and protect your oral and overall health.
Home Care for Gingivitis
While you’re waiting for your next dental appointment, you can take steps to manage your gingivitis at home. Start by stepping up your oral hygiene routine. If you’re not brushing twice a day and flossing every day, now’s the time to start. Take extra time to clean the affected areas. Consider changing your hygiene tools. If you aren’t flossing effectively, consider switching to a different floss, interdental brushes, or water flosser. An electric toothbrush can help if you have difficulty brushing effectively.
Consider cutting back on sugars and other refined carbs. Drink enough water, and always try to end a meal by drinking water. Swish your mouth with water after eating.
If you smoke or use smokeless tobacco, consider quitting.
Periodontitis is the more severe form of gum disease. It can lead to tooth loss and may increase your risk of serious health problems.
Symptoms of periodontitis include:
- Spontaneous bleeding gums
- Gums that hurt spontaneously
- Increased tooth sensitivity to temperature
- Food getting stuck between teeth and gums more often
- Receding gums
- Teeth feeling loose or drifting
When you experience symptoms like these, you must make an urgent appointment with your dentist. Try to get in as soon as possible. It could make the difference between keeping your teeth and losing them.
Not everybody who has gingivitis will get periodontitis. Some people have gingivitis for their entire lives and never see it worsen. Other times, gum disease can rapidly progress from one stage to the next.
Treatment for Gum Disease
If you’re experiencing symptoms of gum disease, including gingivitis and periodontitis, the dentists in Irvine can help. We’re also here if you’re just overdue for a checkup and cleaning to prevent future gum disease.
Please call (949) 551-5902 or use our online form to request an appointment at our dental office