According to the most recent statistics offered by the American Dental Association, about half of the American population does not have a dental plan. That's a whole bunch of unhealthy teeth and gums, not to mention potentially more serious health issues. One of the most serious problems related to oral health is gingivitis, and according to New York dentist, Dr. Robert Schwartz, Gingivitis is the most common periodontal disease, affecting 90% of the population. It is an infection of the gums caused by bacteria that form plaque.
According to Dr. Schwartz, in small amounts (when it is newly formed), plaque is invisible and relatively harmless. But when left to accumulate, it increases in volume and the proportion of harmful bacteria grows. These bacteria release toxins that result in inflammation of the gum tissue. Eventually, the plaque hardens and forms hard deposits called calculus or tartar. If not properly treated, gingivitis may progress to periodontitis, a periodontal disease in which there is loss of the bone that supports the teeth.
The Mayo Clinic reports that gingivitis is both preventable and treatable. Although factors such as medications and lowered immunity make you more susceptible to gingivitis, the most common cause is poor oral hygiene. Daily brushing and flossing and regular professional cleanings can significantly reduce your risk of developing this potentially serious condition. If you already have gingivitis, professional cleaning can reverse the damage. If not treated, gingivitis can progress to more-serious gum diseases, such as periodontitis, and eventually to the destruction of bone and to tooth loss. Because early-stage gum disease is seldom painful, you can have gingivitis without even knowing it. Often, though, you're likely to have warning signs such as:
--Swollen, soft, red gums.
--Gums that bleed easily, even if they're not sore. Many people first detect a change in their gums when they notice that the bristles of their toothbrush are pink — a sign that gums are bleeding with just slight pressure.
--A change in the color of your gums from a healthy pink to dusky red.
Gingivitis, also according to the Mayo Clinic, begins with plaque. This invisible, sticky film, composed primarily of bacteria, forms on your teeth when starches and sugars in food interact with bacteria normally found in your mouth. Brushing your teeth removes plaque, but it re-forms quickly, usually within 24 hours. Plaque that stays on your teeth longer than two or three days can harden under your gumline into tartar (calculus), a white substance that makes plaque more difficult to remove and that acts as a reservoir for bacteria. What's more, you usually can't get rid of tartar by brushing and flossing — you'll need a professional cleaning to remove it. The longer plaque and tartar remain on your teeth, the more they irritate the gingiva, the part of your gum around the base of your teeth. In time, your gums become swollen and bleed easily.
More information online from the Mayo Clinic goes on to say that although plaque is by far the most common cause of gingivitis, other factors can contribute to or aggravate the condition, including:
1.) Drugs. Hundreds of prescription and over-the-counter antidepressants and cold remedies contain ingredients that decrease your body's production of saliva. Because saliva has a cleansing effect on your teeth and helps inhibit bacterial growth, this means that plaque and tartar can build up more easily. Other drugs, especially anti-seizure medications, calcium channel blockers and drugs that suppress your immune system, sometimes can lead to an overgrowth of gum tissue (gingival hyperplasia), making plaque much tougher to remove.
2.) Viral and fungal infections. Although bacteria are responsible for most cases of gingivitis, viral and fungal infections also can affect your gums. Acute herpetic gingivostomatitis is an infection caused by the herpes virus that frequently leads to gum inflammation and to small, painful sores throughout your mouth. Oral thrush, which results when a fungus normally found in your mouth grows out of control, causes creamy white lesions on your tongue and inner cheeks. Sometimes these lesions spread to the roof of your mouth, your tonsils and your gums.
3.) Other diseases and conditions. Some health problems not directly associated with your mouth can still affect your gums. People with leukemia may develop gingivitis when leukemic cells invade their gum tissue. Oral lichen planus, a chronic inflammatory disease, and the rare, autoimmune skin diseases pemphigus and pemphigoid can cause gums to become so severely inflamed that they may peel away from the underlying tissue.
4.) Hormonal changes. During pregnancy, your gums are more susceptible to the damaging effects of plaque. The problem is compounded if you have morning sickness — nausea and vomiting may make it hard to brush your teeth regularly.
5.) Poor nutrition. A poor diet, especially one deficient in calcium, vitamin C and B vitamins, can contribute to periodontal disease. Calcium is important because it helps maintain the strength of your bones, including the bones that support your teeth. Vitamin C helps maintain the integrity of connective tissue. It's also a powerful antioxidant that counters the tissue-destroying effects of free radicals — substances produced when oxygen is metabolized by your body.
Gingivitis, according to eMedicineHealth.com, can be managed simply with good oral hygiene and regular dental appointments. Good mouth and teeth care, regular dental follow-up, and treatment of underlying illnesses are necessary for preventing gingivitis. Removing the source of the infection is primarily how simple gingivitis is treated. By brushing teeth regularly with a toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste approved by dentists, plaque build-up can be kept to a minimum. Flossing is another means of removing plaque in between teeth and other areas hard to reach. Regular check-ups with a dentist are also important. A dentist is able to remove plaque that is too dense to be removed by a toothbrush or dental floss. Severe gingivitis may require antibiotics and consultation with a physician. Antibiotics are medications used to help the body's immune system fight bacterial infection and have been shown to reduce plaque. By reducing plaque, bacteria can be kept to a level manageable by the human immune system. Taking antibiotics is not without risks and should only be done after consultation with a dentist or doctor.
According to eMedicineHealth, for simple gingivitis, work with your dentist. A concerted effort between good home dental hygiene and regular dental visits should be all that is required to treat and prevent gingivitis. If gingivitis continues despite the effort to prevent it, contact your doctor to investigate the possibility of an underlying illness. Gingivitis can usually be managed at home with good dental hygiene. If gingivitis turns into the most severe periodontal infection, acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG), commonly referred to as trench mouth, treatment at a hospital may be required. ANUG not only affects the gums but may spread to adjacent tissues of the face, neck, and bone. Bleeding, loss of periodontal architecture, and pain all characterize ANUG. The breath takes on a fetid odor, the teeth become loose, and the lymph nodes of the neck are often swollen. People with ANUG often have fever and complain of a generalized weakness reflecting widespread infection. Like gingivitis, ANUG usually affects people with underlying immune system situations such as malnutrition, HIV, or cancer. Therapy involves getting rid of the oral bacteria with antibacterial mouthwashes, oral antibiotics, periodontal treatment, and treatment of the underlying illness.
Gingivitis can be easily treated with everyday common sense health care maintenance. Good oral health makes sense. Avoid the problems associated with this oral disease by taking care of your mouth, teeth, and gums. See a good dentist on a regular basis. Take care of your oral health--brush, floss, rinse. Your smile makes life much nicer.
Until next time. Let me know what you think.