What is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the first stage of gum (periodontal) disease. Most typically characterized by an inflammation of the gums, gingivitis is usually caused by bacterial plaque and poor dental hygiene. Unfortunately, gingivitis is quite a common disease and many people are not even aware that they are infected. If untreated, gingivitis may develop into periodontitis, a more serious form of periodontal disease that is likely to lead to tooth loss as well.
In some cases, gingivitis may have few obvious symptoms or signs. Which is why, as previously mentioned, many may be infected with the disease without even knowing it.
Among more serious symptoms, gingivitis may cause damage to the oral tissues, ligaments and tooth sockets that support tooth structure. This is a result of plaque that remains in the mouth for a long period of time: the unremoved plaque will harden and become tartar, having a negative effect on the gums.
Causes of Gingivitis
The number one cause of gingivitis is poor dental hygiene - including appropriate at-home care and regular in-office dental checkups to maintain oral health.
Is Gingivitis Contagious?
Ultimately, gingivitis is a contagious disease caused by bacteria in the mouth and poor oral hygiene. The bacteria is present in one’s saliva and, just as cavity-causing bacteria, gingivitis can be communicable from one person to another (through kissing, sharing silverware, cups, etc.).
Pregnancy and Gingivitis
Research shows up to 70% of pregnant women become infected with gingivitis. Because pregnant women experience hormonal changes, expecting mothers should be aware of their increased risk of gingivitis infection. Pregnancy may cause a rise in the level of progesterone, a hormone which provides a likely environment for bacteria in the mouth to thrive. Expecting mothers should take proper precautions and practice an appropriate dental hygiene routine, in addition to consulting a dentist and making regular dental visits throughout the pregnancy.
Treatment and Prevention of Gingivitis
The first step in preventing gingivitis is practicing proper dental hygiene. Understanding how to brush correctly, appropriate flossing techniques and scheduling regular dentist visits for checkups are essential for everyone.
To avoid the progression of gingivitis into periodontal disease, awareness of infection and seeking early treatment is paramount. Consult your dentist if you have not had a recent exam to test for gingivitis.
Gingivitis treatments are available at the dentist office but also require at-home care.
Gingivitis treatments include:
Professional teeth cleaning to remove plaque and tartar.Proper at-home hygienic care, including how and when to brush, floss and rinse, etc.
If an unsanitary dental appliance is the cause, the dentist may refer the patient to his or her orthodontist for a new appliance to replace it.
Unfortunately, recurring gingivitis is not uncommon so regular dental checkups are essential. For people who are prone to gingivitis, we recommend continual visits to the dentist office for professional teeth cleaning sessions.