Gingivitis is inflammation of the soft gum tissue that surrounds the teeth. It is the first stage of gum disease, and if left untreated may progress to periodontitis, or periodontal disease (disease of the jaw bone that supports the teeth).
If plaque is not removed through daily brushing and flossing, it produces toxins that irritate the gum tissue, causing it to inflame. While the inflammation is in the gum only, the condition can be resolved. If not resolved this gingivitis can become periodontitis and will then cause permanent bone loss of the jaw bone.
What are the symptoms?
Classic symptoms include red, swollen, tender gums that may bleed when brushing or flossing.
Receding gums is also an indication of gingivitis. This is when there is a loss in gum height around the tooth, exposing part of the root.
Bad breath and a bad taste in the mouth is also a symptom.
How can gingivitis be prevented?
Thorough and regular oral hygiene is essential. This includes brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and visiting the dentist for professional cleaning every 6 months.
Avoid cigarettes and other forms of tobacco.
What are the risks?
Untreated gingivitis leads to periodontitis. This is an inflammatory disease affecting the bone that holds the teeth in place. There is progressive bone loss that can lead to loosening of teeth and eventual loss of teeth. Periodontitis is diagnosed by the dentist through inspection of the soft gum tissues around the teeth with a probe, and also by assessment of radiographs.
Regular assessment of the supporting tissues of the mouth is essential to maintaining oral health.