Author: Claire Vann, RDH, MS

Could you have gingivitis? 

The simplest definition of gingivitis is inflammation of your gum tissue – puffy, sore, or bleeding gums. Yes, that bit of blood you notice while rinsing after brushing or flossing is a sign of gingivitis.

Most people have some form of gingivitis or periodontal disease (gum disease) in their lifetime. Nearly 60% of people have experienced bleeding gums and 1 in 3 people think that bleeding gums are completely normal. Here’s the honest truth – in a state of optimal health, gum tissue will not bleed when you brush and floss OR when probing and scaling is completed by your dental hygienist. You read that right! Healthy gums don’t bleed.

What causes gingivitis?

Plaque. While there are many circumstances that can contribute to gingivitis, such as smoking cigarettes or use of tobacco products, a compromised immune system, hormonal changes, or even medications, the main cause is still the retention of plaque on your gum tissue. Plaque naturally forms on your teeth and gums and is full of potentially harmful bacteria. If this bacteria sits on your gums long enough, it becomes harmful and triggers your body’s inflammatory process in order to fight off infection. The result of this inflammation is bleeding, puffy, sore gums. If left untreated, gingivitis can advance to periodontal disease, which breaks down the ligaments and bone that support your teeth.

Is gingivitis really that bad?

Gingivitis can cause bad breath, receding gums, swollen gums, loose teeth, and leads to periodontal disease. Research has proven that periodontal disease not only leads to tooth loss, but is also linked to heart disease, uncontrolled diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Keeping your teeth and gums in optimal health can actually improve your total body health!

How can we prevent or treat gingivitis?

The first and best form of defense is prevention. However, if gingivitis is already present, it can be reversed before it becomes more moderate or advanced periodontal disease. You can prevent or treat gingivitis by following a regular oral hygiene routine to remove plaque, which includes:

  • Brushing at least twice a day for at least 2 minutes.
  • Flossing at least once daily.
  • Visiting a dental hygienist twice a year for a gum check up.

Every six months, a visit with your dental hygienist will provide time to evaluate your total oral health, and learn techniques to improve your home care. Your hygienist will remove hardened calculus and stains from your teeth, but they can also point out of areas of concern, demonstrate effective brushing and flossing, and recommend products to help you battle gingivitis.

If you want to make sure your gums are healthy, improve your gum health and total body health, or if you have not seen a dentist in many years, scheduling an appointment with a dental hygienist is a great place to start! We can provide an evaluation of your total oral health and work with the dentist to determine the best treatment for your individual needs.