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Pink in the Sink: What Causes Gingivitis?

Emily Boge, RDh, BS, MPAc

Gingivitis is an oral health disease that most often results from poor oral home care. Many individuals who suffer from this condition are unaware of it because gingivitis is seldom painful. Some of the symptoms of gingivitis include:

• Bleeding of the gums when brushing or flossing (noticeably pink saliva).

• Puffy or swollen red gums.

• Bad breath.

The best method to stop what causes gingivitis is to increase the amount of time spent brushing and flossing. These methods have been shown to be effective in removing plaque from the mouth, especially in areas along the gumline. Plaque (also called biofilm) is a sticky, often invisible film found on the surface of the teeth, tongue, cheeks and gums. Plaque is made up of bacterial cells, their food and the waste they produce. This combination, when left stuck on teeth and/or along the gumline, can irritate the tissue and cause an inflammation reaction to occur within the body's immune system. The longer an individual waits to remove this sticky mass, the more time it has to damage the teeth and surrounding gum tissue. This series of events is what causes gingivitis.

Plaque and Tartar

If plaque is left inside the mouth, and not removed, it can harden into tartar, also known as calculus. Minerals from saliva, foods and drinks become embedded in the sticky mass of plaque and form tiny hard deposits on the teeth above and below the gumline. These deposits must be removed by a dental professional and provide a greater surface area upon which more plaque may build up. This results in the progression and worsening of gingivitis, leading to greater inflammation and subsequent bleeding.

Treating Gingivitis

When gingivitis is noticed, it is best to contact a dental professional, who can help reverse the effects of gingivitis and return the gums to the firm, pink state that indicates healthy oral tissue. Regular visits to a dental professional to assess the condition of gum tissue will also decrease the progression of gingivitis to a more serious gum disease called periodontitis. The sooner one cares for their gums affected by gingivitis, the better the outcome. Whereas gum disease is a reversible condition, periodontal disease is not as easily treated and can lead to tooth loss resulting from damage to gums, bone and other tissues that surround the teeth.

The mechanical action of brushing and flossing plaque from the mouth, especially in areas along the gumline, lessens the chance of gingivitis developing. Also, effective over-the-counter dental products such as those like Colgate Total® toothpaste will not only remove the germs, but inhibit the growth of new germs for up to 12 hours. Decreasing the amount of plaque present in the mouth is the best defense in preventing what causes gingivitis, and Colgate®

Total® toothpaste contains an anti-bacterial ingredient that reduces 90% of these plaque germs. Since plaque is often invisible to the eye, using a toothpaste with an added germ prevention ingredient increases the effectiveness of brushing twice daily. Developing a daily routine to reduce bacteria in the mouth will reduce gingivitis and increase both oral health and overall wellness.

Learn more about gum disease in the Colgate Oral Care resources.

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