About half of all adults in the US have gum disease, and gingivitis is by far the most common form. Your risk of gum disease increases with age, as do some serious health complications linked to the condition. Gum disease threatens your teeth, but it can also threaten your health by increasing your risk of heart disease, dementia, and other conditions.
So, it’s essential to watch for symptoms of gingivitis and get proper care to avoid the more severe forms of gum disease. In St. Louis, Smile On Dental Studio understands that a healthy smile is the foundation for a beautiful smile. We can help you achieve and maintain good oral health.
What Is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is a form of gum disease. Gum disease is when oral bacteria infect the space around your teeth, which is why it’s also called periodontal disease (“perio” means “around,” and “don’t” means “tooth”). The more severe form of gum disease is called periodontitis, which we’ll talk about later.
When bacteria enter these spaces around your teeth, their secretions can damage your gums, creating more space for bacteria. As these spaces grow, the bacterial population also increases, but it can change, too, which can drive more serious gum disease. In addition, your body responds to the infection in ways that create many of the symptoms we associate with gum disease.
Gingivitis Risk Factors
Although gingivitis is prevalent, some people are at a higher risk for the condition than others. You may have an elevated risk for gingivitis if you:
- Are a man
- Are a pregnant woman
- Have crooked teeth
- Eat a diet rich in carbohydrates
- Don’t practice good oral hygiene
- Don’t make regular dental visits
- Smoke or use smokeless tobacco
- Are commonly dehydrated
- Take certain medications
- Have diabetes
- Are older
Throughout your life, you may have gingivitis at times and not at others. This is partly due to some of the lifestyle conditions linked to the condition. If you are a smoker, you likely have chronic gingivitis, but if you quit smoking, you may see gingivitis go away.
However, since the gingivitis risk increases with age, by the time we reach our senior years, most people have it. It may be hard to get rid of at that point, too.
So, what are the symptoms of gingivitis you need to watch out for? They may be subtle initially, and you may miss them if you aren’t paying close attention. Watch for:
- Swollen gums
- Discolored gums: your gums get redder when infected
- Gum tenderness
- Gums that bleed after brushing, flossing, or eating
- Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
Some people can have difficulty seeing when their gums are red or swollen. Often, gingivitis doesn’t affect the entire mouth at once: look for areas of your gums that are redder or puffier than others.
You might think it’s expected that your gums are sensitive or bleed when you brush, floss, or eat, but healthy gums shouldn’t hurt or bleed because of these everyday activities.
Persistent bad breath is another symptom of gum disease. This is different from bad breath linked to foods you eat or when you’re dehydrated. Bad breath or a foul taste in the mouth linked to gum disease is relatively constant–you experience it often, no matter what you’re eating and drinking.
When to See a Dentist for Gingivitis Treatment
Gingivitis is not a severe condition, so you don’t need to get emergency care for it. However, you should try to manage the condition to protect your oral and overall health.
Contact a dentist for gingivitis treatment if:
- It’s been more than six months since you visited the dentist
- You have risk factors for serious gum disease
- Your gingivitis symptoms make it hard to brush, floss, or eat
- You have health conditions that gum disease can make worse, such as diabetes
- You experience symptoms of more severe gum disease
These are signs that you should schedule a dental appointment soon. Waiting too long to get gingivitis under control can have serious health consequences.
If you don’t meet any of the conditions above, you can try managing your gingivitis at home first. Consider changing your diet and lifestyle habits. Eat less sugar. Smoke less. Keep hydrated.
In addition, you should step up your oral hygiene routine. Make sure you’re brushing twice daily and flossing every day. Take extra care to clean the affected areas well.
Then, make your next regular dental cleaning appointment. The dentists at Smile On Dental Studio in St. Louis will evaluate your gum disease to help you manage it.
Symptoms of Periodontitis
Sometimes, gingivitis can become a more serious form of gum disease: periodontitis. Periodontitis is an aggressive form of the condition that can lead to bone loss, tooth loss, and dramatically increased health risks.
You may have periodontitis if you experience:
Spontaneous bleeding from gums
- Gums that hurt even when you’re not touching them
- More tooth sensitivity
- Food getting stuck between teeth and gums more often
- Your teeth look like they’re getting longer (receding gums)
- Teeth drifting or feeling loose
If you experience these periodontitis symptoms, it’s essential to see a dentist quickly. Contact Smile On Dental Studio today to schedule an appointment. If you don’t, you may lose your teeth.
Risk factors for periodontitis are more complicated than gingivitis. You can influence your risk by changing lifestyle habits like smoking, diet, and hygiene. However, there’s also a significant genetic component in periodontitis risk. If you have a family history of periodontitis, you need to take the danger seriously.