Gingivitis! Anytime we hear the suffix -itis (which means inflammation) we all probably cringe a little bit, right? After all, it means that something is wrong. With gingivitis, it means something is “wrong” with your gums– they are irritated and inflamed.
However, there’s a positive spin to this dastardly -itis: it is a message. Gingivitis is a signal that your gums need better care, and as it turns out– gum health is essential.
What so important about gums?
We often overlook gum care. Not always, but even with the excellent caliber of patients that your Vancouver Washington dentist is honored to work with– at times people admit to skipping the flossing step in their oral hygiene.
Here’s why you want to care for those gums: if you want teeth, you need healthy gums. Your gum tissue creates a tight bond at the base of each tooth that protects it from invading bacteria. The vasculature in your gums nourishes the roots of your teeth within the alveolar bone of your jaw. Gums even provide a landscape for commensal bacteria to live– bacteria that protect your mouth from invading bacteria that could cause cavities.
It’s also worth considering that while gum health is critical, gum disease— like periodontitis, which we will mention in a minute– is not only bad for your smile but has also been linked with serious systemic diseases like atherosclerosis.
When gingivitis strikes
Within this healthy gingival landscape of well fed tooth roots and protection from bacteria, problems can arise. They almost always arise due to poor gum hygiene, especially from missed flossing. When hygiene is less-than-efficient, pathogenic bacteria like streptococcus mutans start to flourish in your mouth– especially along the gum line. These bacteria metabolize the sugars in your mouth to acids, which irritate the gum tissue.
Often the signs and symptoms of gingivitis are red or purple gum tissue, pain, and swelling. Patients may notice bleeding when they floss or brush their teeth. Halitosis, or bad breath, is another sign of gingivitis.
Fortunately, gingivitis can almost always be reversed with rigorous oral care, especially attention to the gum line and in between the teeth. If gingivitis is not attended to, it could lead to a much more serious disease condition called periodontitis.
In periodontitis the irritated gum tissue starts to exit its normal place beside the tooth in a last-ditch effort to escape the invading bacterial acid wash. When gum pulls away from the tooth, sensitive parts of the mouth are exposed to bacterial invasion and decay– like the dentin of the tooth root, and even (in extreme cases) nerves. Periodontitis can lead to ulcerations of the oral mucosa, tooth loss, bone abscesses, and even loss of bone.
Protect with prevention!
If you have gingivitis, don’t dispair. As mentioned, the condition is reversible. There are even extra tools you have to aid your mouth in its healthy mission. Fluoride mouth wash, water picks, electric toothbrushes, and specialized dental tooth picks have all aided patients in reversing their gingivitis and obtaining their ultimate dental health.