What Causes Gingivitis?

As we continue to persevere through a time when we are unable to provide dental care for our patients (for both their safety and ours), we are considering the dental issues that you might be facing during this time of quarantine.  While we follow our state and regulatory agencies’ protocols regarding the cessation of non-emergency dental procedures, we want to continue sharing relevant information that will help you understand and manage any non-emergency dental issues that arise.

This week, we have chosen the topic of gingivitis because it is very common, it is relatively easy to recognize, and you can begin taking steps to manage it at home until you are able to see us for professional treatment.

What is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gum tissues surrounding the teeth.  It usually involves swelling and redness of the gums with a tendency to bleed.  Sometimes, it also causes tenderness.

If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, you have gingivitis.

Gingivitis may be isolated to a small area surrounding only one or two teeth, or it can span the entire mouth.  In very severe cases, the gums may take on a dark purplish color and swell to the point of covering a significant portion of the teeth.

Some cases of gingivitis are temporary, lasting only a few days, while others persist for months on end.

Gingivitis does not go away on its own without any type of intervention.  If you have gingivitis, do nothing about it, and then notice that the redness, swelling, and bleeding seem to be getting better, this is an indication that the acute inflammation of gingivitis has transitioned to the chronic inflammation of periodontal disease.  Don’t ignore gingivitis!

What Causes Gingivitis?

Bacteria in plaqueThe primary cause of gingivitis is always dental plaque.  Plaque contains disease-causing bacteria that produce toxins.  As these toxins contact the surrounding gum tissues, the body responds with inflammation.

Secondary Causes of Gingivitis

There are many secondary causes of gingivitis that affect either the buildup of dental plaque or the body’s inflammatory response.

  • Poor Oral Hygiene – When you do not brush or floss your teeth properly and consistently, the buildup of dental plaque leads to gingivitis.
  • Dry Mouth – Saliva helps your mouth fight plaque buildup, so the lack of saliva in a dry mouth allows more plaque to accumulate.
  • Hormone Surges – Many people experience severe gingivitis during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. The rapid changes in hormone levels alters the body’s inflammatory response, leading to an “over-reaction” against any amount of dental plaque.
  • Certain Prescription Medications – Some prescription medications cause hypertrophy (overgrowth) of the gum tissues, which is aggravated by dental plaque buildup.

What Can I Do About Gingivitis?

Fighting gingivitis is all about great plaque removal.  You know what that means: you have to work on your oral hygiene skills.  Here are some useful tips for improving your oral hygiene while you’re stuck at home.

  1. Consider an electric toothbrush.

Electric toothbrushes typically remove more dental plaque than manual toothbrushes do.  The motion of the electric toothbrush has the right mechanical properties of removing plaque; all you have to do is make sure that the bristles touch all exposed surfaces of the teeth and the edge of the gums surrounding them.

  1. Floss.

Flossing (3)Floss, floss, floss, floss, floss.  Seriously.  We cannot stress this enough.  There is SO much plaque that accumulates between the teeth, and when you do not floss, you leave it there to keep producing toxins and keep causing inflammation.  Staci, Kenneth, and Rachel are experts at teaching you how to floss, but in their absence, this guy has a pretty good explanation.

  1. Add a mouthrinse to your routine.

Using a mouthwash is an excellent way to break up dental plaque and make it easier to remove with brushing and flossing.  (Note: mouthwash does not remove plaque!  Only brushing and flossing does.)  Make sure to use an alcohol-free mouthwash so that you don’t aggravate any dry mouth problems.

  1. Use tools to help you evaluate plaque removal.

This might be the best advice we have to give in this gingivitis article!  Plaque is off-white in color, and it is difficult to see unless there is a huge clump of it.  By adding plaque-disclosing tablets to your routine, you can see the plaque.  You chew up a tablet, and it stains dental plaque purple or hot pink.  This helps you improve your brushing and flossing techniques and confirm that you’re removing it all!

Plaque-disclosing tablets are wonderful for your kids, too.  Let your child brush and floss first, and then chew a tablet.  This shows them all the areas they are missing.  Make it a challenge to see who can remove the most plaque from their teeth!

We Are Here For You!

Even though we are not allowed to provide preventive care at this time, we are committed to providing what care we can for all of our patients.  If you experience an urgent dental problem, call our office at 972-347-1145 and follow the instructions on the voicemail to reach our on-call dentist!

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