Gingivitis. Everyone has heard the word. That’s not probably due to their extensive knowledge of dental issues, however. It’s probably more a factor of the size of the yearly Listerine ad budget. After all, the word gingivitis sounds ominous, an ad copywriter’s dream. And if Listerine helps fight it, oooooooh, I need some!
But what actually is gingivitis? At Gentle Dental, we want our patients to be knowledgeable about their dental health, so here’s a little primer on gingivitis.
Gingivitis, beyond its scary name
While its name does sound ominous, the term gingivitis simply means gum inflammation. And, like a pesky little brother, plaque is the main irritant of the gums. Plaque is the film that forms on the teeth throughout the day consisting of bacteria, bacterial waste products, food residue, and saliva. When you brush and floss you remove the plaque. Then it starts to rebuild, only to be removed again when you brush. 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 no bueno.
What are signs of gingivitis?
Now that you’re an expert in all things gingivitis, how do you know when you have it? Said gum irritation is easy to spot. Your gums should be pink all over. 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. However, since we can’t be there to nag you about home hygiene, at Gentle Dental we still see the results of gingivitis. Here’s how our Gentle Dental team treats it.
- Prophylactic cleaning
This is a fancy sounding term for your regular twice-yearly cleanings at Gentle Dental. Why twice a year? That generally 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 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.
So, there you have it. You’re an expert at gingivitis, and you didn’t even have to study! If you have any of the above signs, or just to schedule your regular checkup, call us at Gentle Dental, (732) 549-5660.