When it comes to complimenting a smile, teeth tend to steal the show. The truth is, gums usually don't get much attention unless you're focusing on them while practicing good oral hygiene or there's something wrong with them. And most often, that "something wrong" is gingivitis. Gingivitis is a bacterial infection that can cause inflammation and bleeding in your gums, and it's probably a lot more common than you realize. If you think you may have gingivitis, we'll let you know all about the signs, symptoms, and treatments for this disease, so it doesn't develop into something more severe. And we'll give you some tips on prevention so you can finally put the spotlight on this issue that's so essential for a good, healthy smile.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Gingivitis?
Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications
What is Gingivitis?
If your gums are swollen, inflamed, or tender when you brush, you may have gingivitis – a mild form of gum disease caused by bacteria that's built up around your gumline and has turned into plaque (a soft, sticky, colorless film).
According to the Journal of Dental Research, nearly half of adults over 30 in the US ( 47.1 percent to be exact) have some form of gum disease. Left untreated, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis. This more severe form of gum disease can cause your teeth to loosen or even fall out.
But don't worry, we can help you work to avoid that fate. Gum disease is reversible. Even periodontitis can be treated with deep cleaning (and, in some cases, surgery).
How To Know If You Have Gingivitis
Are you pretty sure you don't have gingivitis, but you haven't been to the dentist in a while? You may be right about the health of your gums, but you could also have gingivitis and not show any symptoms at all.
That's one reason regular checkups are so important, so you can catch gum disease before you have any perceptible effects. Some symptoms to look out for when they do show are:
- Swollen gums
- Soft puffy gums
- Receding gums
- Occasionally tender gums
- Gums that bleed when flossing or brushing
- A change in gum color from pink to red
- Persistent bad taste in your mouth
- Loose teeth
- And persistent bad breath.
If you notice any irregularities or sensitivities in the health of your gums, don't wait until your next checkup – make an appointment with a dental professional right away.
Causes and Risk Factors of Gingivitis
If you practice good oral hygiene, you're already addressing the most common cause of gingivitis (which is, conversely, poor oral hygiene – no surprise there). By taking care of your mouth, you've positioned yourself to have healthy, disease-free gums.
But there are other concerns you should be aware of, too. Smoking is a significant risk factor for gum disease. In fact, according to the Journal of Dental Research, smokers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to have gum disease.
There are a variety of other factors that can increase your chances of getting gum disease, too:
- Certain lifestyle choices can increase the risk of getting gingivitis, like:
Poor oral hygiene
According to a study published in the Journal of Dental Research, 64% of adults over 65 have either moderate or severe periodontal disease.
Some medications can have adverse effects on your oral health. Speak with a medical professional about any potential side effects your medication could have.
Other medical conditions can increase your risk of gum disease, like:
And pregnancy complications can all contribute to periodontal disease.
Other illnesses are being evaluated for possible connections to gum disease, including pancreatic cancer, pulmonary disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
How To Prevent Gingivitis
As we mentioned before, practicing good oral hygiene is the best way to prevent gingivitis. Some care tips:
- Brush at least twice a day
- Don't forget to brush your tongue
- Use an antimicrobial mouth rinse
- Use a tongue scrapers
And be sure to see your dental professional for regular appointments – not only to keep your teeth pearly white but to check on the health of your gums, too. You and your dental professional can discuss the best options tailored specifically to your individual needs, and you'll be able to feel great about having a future of oral health that will make you smile.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.