Gingivitis is the inflammation and infection of the gums surrounding the teeth, and usually results from poor dental hygiene. Signs of gingivitis include swollen and tender gums; bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth; gums that bleed easily; ulcers on the gums, or pus around the teeth; and visible tartar deposits.
The primary cause of gingivitis is plaque, the film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth and gums. If it is not removed daily, plaque produces toxins that can irritate gum tissue causing gingivitis. It's similar to what would happen if a baby soiled its diaper and wasn't cleaned up properly when changed, resulting in a bad case of diaper rash. No matter how frequently you brush your teeth, you typically only remove about one-third of the bacteria; flossing can remove the remaining two-thirds.
Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis. The toxins that remain around the tooth dissolve the fibers of the tissue, causing gums to recede. Eventually the bone will dissolve completely and the affected teeth will fall out, or must be extracted Gingivitis can also damage other parts of the body if it is not treated. The bacteria from the gums can travel through the bloodstream and cause infections. Gum disease has been linked to heart disease, stroke, and pneumonia, and diabetics with gingivitis may find it more difficult to control blood sugar levels.
Five simple preventive measures to avoid gingivitis:
- Brush teeth twice daily, and after meals when possible.
- Use a fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss at least once a day.
- Avoid sugary foods, tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption.
- Visit a dentist at least once every six months for cleaning.