In Edison, we’re pretty close to the advertising hub of Madison Avenue in Manhattan. When it comes right down to it, we’re all victims of advertising anyway. A case in point is the word “gingivitis.” Anyone with a TV has heard that word, not from their enlightened knowledge of dentistry, but from Listerine TV commercials.
Gingivitis is Don Draper’s dream. It sounds mysterious, even scary. I better get some of that Listerine, as it “helps fight gingivitis.” This is war!
Well, at Gentle Dental we’re not quite Mad Men and women, so we’re not into the hype. And while Listerine can help, somewhat, in the fight against gingivitis, thorough brushing and flossing at home is all that’s needed.
Still, what is gingivitis? Because we like educated patients at Gentle Dental, let’s get into it, beyond the TV spots.
Gingivitis, beyond its ominous name
“Gingivitis” sounds ominous, for sure. Its meaning is fairly benign — the term gingivitis simply means gum inflammation. And, kind of like that person in the next cubicle at work, a plaque is the main irritant of the gums. Plaque is the sticky film that forms on the teeth throughout the day consisting of bacteria, bacterial waste products, food residue, and saliva. This is an ongoing battle. When you brush and floss you remove the plaque. Then it starts to rebuild, only to be removed again when you brush. Kind of like Groundhog Day (if you saw the movie) for your teeth.
But if you neglect your oral hygiene the plaque can develop beneath the gumline, where it is very irritating to your gums. If allowed to stay there, the plaque hardens into tartar, causing more persistent irritation. And this is where things get dicey. Because, while the term “irritation” sounds innocent enough, if this irritation is allowed to continue and progress, it leads to gum disease, clinically known as periodontitis. And periodontitis is not a word you want to be associated with your gums!
What are signs of gingivitis?
Now that you know what it is, how do you know if you have gingivitis? Gum irritation is easy to spot. Your gums should be pink all over, kind of like a wad of Double Bubble. Any bright red patches show irritation. Your gums should also lie flat against the teeth; inflamed gums tend to recede and pull away from the teeth. Your gums will also be prone to bleeding, and this shouldn’t normally happen if you’re using a soft toothbrush. Bleeding is a sign of inflammation. And finally, as in the commercials, your breath will reek. The commercials get this part right — your bad breath is caused by bacteria that is being left to its own devices by your poor oral hygiene.
To keep your gums healthy and keep gingivitis at bay, it all starts with good home hygiene. But since we’re not there in front of your mirror badgering you about brushing and flossing, here’s how we treat gingivitis once you’re here at Gentle Dental.
- Prophylactic cleaning
This is a fancy sounding term for your regular twice-yearly cleanings with us. Why twice a year? That is the time it takes to start forming tartar and other issues that lead to decay. During these cleanings and checkups, not only will those problem areas receive a thorough cleaning, but we will also point them out to you for more attentive care at home.
If you have a fair amount of tartar built up under your gumline, we will scrape it off with dental tools. This is called scaling. Why? Because “scraping with dental tools” sounds pedestrian. Depending on how much we have to do, we may give you a local anesthesia.
- Root planing
In root planing, any tiny grooves or pits are removed from the tooth roots to make it easier for the gums to adhere and stop receding. This is done in multiple appointments with local anesthesia.
See, now you could be the copywriter on the Listerine account — you know all about gingivitis! Just remember, the best way to avoid it is to be diligent when cleaning your teeth at home. If you do that, odds are you’ll only need to see us at Gentle Dental for your twice-yearly cleanings. Call us at (732) 549-5660 to make your appointment.