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Gingivitis: Symptoms and Causes in Northern Virginia

Is a little bit of blood coming up from your gums while flossing during your daily dental hygiene ritual? Perhaps you and your partner have noticed that your breath doesn’t smell as fresh as it should. These are indications that you’ve developed gingivitis, an early stage of periodontal or gum disease that causes inflammation. Read below to learn about the symptoms, causes and treatment options for gingivitis and how ignoring it can have consequences.

Is Gingivitis Common and Preventable?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 47% of adults age 30 and older have some type of gum disease. When it goes untreated, the disease can transform into chronic periodontitis. At this advanced stage, the disease causes the bone and tissue that support the teeth to deteriorate. Because of that, the teeth may become loose and dislodged.

Statistics from the American Academy of Periodontology show that just over 56% of men have the oral infection compared to a little more than 38% of women. The CDC notes that the risk for developing this disease increases with age because 70% of adults age 65 and older have it. The silver lining is that the disease is preventable and treatable when it’s detected and treated in the early stage, which is gingivitis. For this reason, it’s important to know the signs and visit your dentist when you notice them.

What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?

Healthy gums fit comfortably around your teeth with no gaps. In addition, they’re firm and pale pink in color. Since gingivitis doesn’t usually cause pain, you have to look for other signs of irritation and inflammation to determine that you have it:

  • Bite or space changes in your teeth
  • Bloody gums when brushing and flossing
  • Constant foul taste or breath
  • Dark red or purplish gums
  • Gumline that’s pulling away or receding from your teeth
  • Gums that are painful or tender to the touch
  • Sensitive or painful gums when chewing
  • Swollen or puffed-up gums
  • Teeth can be slightly wiggled

What’s the Cause of Gingivitis?

Plaque is a sticky, invisible film that’s mostly composed of bacteria. It builds up on your teeth when you don’t practice good dental hygiene. The reason is that plaque constantly re-forms since it’s the byproduct of the sugars and carbohydrates that you eat, which are interacting with the bacteria in your mouth. Daily flossing and brushing are the best way to remove it.

When plaque stays on your teeth, it turns into hard calculus or tartar under your gumline, which forms a protective coating for the bacteria. Only a professional teeth cleaning can remove it. If you don’t get it removed, the bacteria and calculus can cause inflammation and an infection of the gingiva (the gum tissue that surrounds your teeth). You could develop chronic periodontitis if you continue to ignore gingivitis, which may lead to you losing your teeth. Also, you’re more likely to have tooth decay.

Do Risk Factors Contribute to the Development of Gum Disease?

Without practicing proper oral hygiene, no one is exempt from developing gingivitis. However, some factors can increase the likelihood of you developing it, such as:

  • Conditions that hinder the immune system, such as diabetes, cancer, HIV and AIDS
  • Faulty dental fillings
  • Female hormonal changes, pregnancy and birth control pills
  • Gum disease runs in the family
  • Medications, particularly those that make your mouth dry
  • Poorly fitted bridges, dentures and other restorations
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Vitamin deficiencies and poor nutrition

Can Other Aspects of Your Health Be Affected by Gingivitis?

Tooth, bone and tissue loss are some of the consequences of having severe gum disease. Scientists have found that it could be a causative factor of other systemic health issues as well. Bacteria was once thought to be the link, but more research indicates that it may be inflammation instead. Here are some health conditions that have a connection to periodontal disease:

Heart Disease: According to the AAP, research shows that gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease. However, a cause-and-effect relationship hasn’t been proven.

Stroke: In a study, people who suffered from strokes caused by brain artery blockages were more likely to have periodontal disease than the control group. Other studies indicate that treating gum disease reduces the risk for brain artery-related strokes. Additionally, severe brain artery blockages were nearly two-and-a-half times as common in people with gingivitis.

Respiratory Disease: It’s possible for people with gum disease to breathe in the bacteria that’s in their mouths. When it gets into their lungs, it can cause pneumonia or another breathing issue.

Cancer: Anybody who has periodontal disease has a higher risk for developing certain cancers than those without the condition. However, the risk is even higher for men since they’re more likely than women to get gum disease. Compared to men without the condition, men with it have a 14% chance of getting cancer. Check out these other statistics for men with periodontal disease and cancer:

  • 30% increased risk of getting blood cancers
  • 49% increased risk of getting kidney cancer
  • 54% increased risk of getting pancreatic cancer

Diabetes: Uncontrolled blood sugar levels in people with diabetes greatly increases their risk for gum disease compared to controlled blood sugar levels. Also, a serious oral infection can make blood sugar levels rise, which raises the risk for complications, including nerve damage, vision loss and kidney disease.

How Can Gingivitis Be Prevented and Treated?

Practicing healthy dental habits at home is the best way to prevent and control gingivitis. Ask your dentist about how often you should floss and brush every day to remove plaque and bacteria. It’s also essential to visit the dentist for routine cleanings.

If you experience signs of gingivitis and catch it early, you may be able to reverse the damage with a professional teeth cleaning and practicing good oral hygiene at home. For a case of inflammation that’s progressed, the dentist could recommend scaling and root planing to clear away the plaque and tartar under your gumline. Get a tailored treatment plan when you schedule an appointment.

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