Gingivitis is the medical term for inflammation of the gums, and if left untreated can turn into gum disease (also called periodontal disease). In general, gum disease is primarily caused by long-term exposure to plaque, the sticky but colorless bacterial film that forms on teeth throughout the day and night.
Gum disease originates in the gums, where infections occur from harmful bacteria and other materials left behind from eating. Early warning signs include chronic bad breath, tender or painful swollen gums and minor bleeding after brushing or flossing.
In many cases, however, gingivitis can go unnoticed. Low grade, chronic infections can eventually cause the gums to separate from the teeth causing pockets or perodontitis. These pockets become deeper with time and the bacteria within them become inaccessible to a tooth brush. The supporting tissues of the teeth, the bone and the ligament which hold the tooth to the bone, are slowly destroyed creating even greater opportunities for infection and decay. The involved teeth eventually become loose and can no longer tolerate even normal function of chewing food. The end result of untreated gum disease is tooth loss.
Although gum disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults, in many cases it is avoidable.
If gingivitis goes untreated, more serious problems such as abscesses, bone loss or periodontitis can occur.
Periodontitis is treated in a number of ways. One method, called scaling and root planing (also known as deep cleaning), involves cleaning and scraping below the gum line to remove the bacteria and smooth the roots. If effective, this procedure helps the gums reattach themselves to the tooth structure. However, not all instances of scaling and root planing successfully reattach the tooth to the gums. Additional measures may be needed if the periodontal pockets persist after scaling and root planing. Your dentist at Grace Dental can properly advise you on treatment options.
Pregnancy has also been known to cause a form of gingivitis. This has been linked to hormonal changes in the woman’s body that promote plaque production.