Gingivitis. Everyone has heard the word. That’s not probably due to the average person’s knowledge of dental problems, however. It’s more likely the result of hearing the term in mouthwash commercials. After all, gingivitis sounds pretty scary, so it’s perfect for advertising. And Madison Avenue is only an hour and change away from Pound Ridge!
But what actually is gingivitis? At Pound Ridge Cosmetic Dentistry, we want our patients to be knowledgeable about their dental health, so here’s a little Gingivitis 101.
Gingivitis — a scarier name than reality
While its name does sound ominous, the term gingivitis simply means gum inflammation. And 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, whether you’ve heard that term or not, periodontitis is not one you want to get to know.
What are signs of gingivitis?
So, now that we’ve taken the mystery out of gingivitis, how do you know when you have it? It’s easy to spot. Your gums should be pink all over. They should look like a piece of Double Bubble Gum. 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.
Like most dental issues, things can go dramatically better if you practice good home oral hygiene. However, since Dr. Smith and Dr. Feng can’t be there to nag you about home hygiene, we still see the effects of gingivitis. Here’s how our team treats it.
- Prophylactic cleaning
This is a fancy sounding term for your regular twice-yearly cleanings with us at Pound Ridge. 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. Depending how much we have to do, we may give you a local anesthesia.