Gingivitis is known as an inflammatory disease and is the mildest form of periodontal disease. It causes the gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort at this stage. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene and is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.
Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself, making the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed. Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.
The main goal of treatment is to control the infection. The number and types of treatment will vary, depending on the extent of the gum disease. Any type of treatment requires that the patient keep up good daily care at home. The doctor may also suggest changing certain behaviors, such as quitting smoking, as a way to improve treatment outcome.
People usually don’t show signs of gum disease until they are in their 30s or 40s. Men are more likely to have gum disease than women. Teenagers are more predisposed to gingivitis than developing periodontitis. Most commonly, gum disease develops when plaque is allowed to build up along and under the gum line.
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Need another reason to quit smoking? Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of gum disease. Additionally, smoking can lower the chances for successful treatment.
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These changes can make gums more sensitive and make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
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Medications. There are hundreds of prescription and over the counter medications that can reduce the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on the mouth. Without enough saliva, the mouth is vulnerable to infections such as gum disease and fungus. Some medicines can cause abnormal overgrowth of the gum tissue which can make it difficult to keep teeth and gums clean.
Stress. People handle stress very differently. For some, stress can manifest as gingival inflammation causing periodontal disease.
Pregnant women are at risk for developing pregnancy tumors—inflammatory, noncancerous growths that develop between the teeth or when swollen gums become irritated.