Gum disease is a serious health issue that not only affects your teeth, but it can contribute to life threatening conditions like heart disease. Preventing gum disease is a big motivation to keep your teeth and mouth healthy. This obviously includes regular exams and cleanings from a dental practice. If you suspect you have gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease, there are steps you can take to reverse it completely before it progresses.
How Gingivitis Develops
Gingivitis is caused mostly by plaque. Plaque is full of bacteria that builds up on your teeth and gums in a sticky, pasty film. Though easy enough to remove through good oral hygiene practices, plaque can build up and harden, becoming tartar below the gumline. Tartar that is not removed can cause gingivitis.
Symptoms of Gingivitis
How do you know if it’s gingivitis? Basically, your gums are red and swollen for longer than a day. They feel tender to the touch and may bleed when you brush, floss or eat. The degree of gingivitis or whether you have gum disease in a more serious stage can be determined by your dentist or dental hygienist.
Aside from not keeping up on your own teeth cleaning efforts and going to the dentist, there are other risk factors for gingivitis. Evidence indicates that gum disease can be hereditary; if your parent(s) have had gum disease, there is a good chance you will develop it, too. Knowing that there is an increased risk can help guide your prevention efforts.
Pregnant women are also at risk for gingivitis and gum disease. Many women have gingivitis while they are pregnant, and it resolves after they give birth. One reason is the decreased immune response during pregnancy that protects a developing fetus from the mom’s immune system. Reduced tolerance for bacteria contributes to inflammation.
Brush your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time. Brushing your teeth well with a fluoride toothpaste goes a long way towards eliminating plaque and the bacteria that causes it. And be sure to use a soft-bristled brush. You are gently removing dirt, not scraping it away.
Floss your teeth every day. There are spaces between your teeth where food and plaque can collect, even when you brush regularly. If it’s been a while since you last flossed, don’t be alarmed if your gums bleed and feel sore. The more you floss, the stronger your gums will be, which will be better for your teeth as well as hygiene.
Use an antiseptic rinse for any pockets or spaces that you miss. A rinse can kill bacteria and increase saliva production (which keeps your mouth healthier).
Get professional cleaning to remove tartar build up. It may not be pleasant when you have a lot of tartar below the gum line, but your hygienist can clean all the hard to reach areas and give your teeth a clean start. Then it’s up to you to keep them clean!
Have a conversation with your dentist of hygienist to receive learn proper techniques for brushing and flossing. It’s always a good idea to find out if you are doing something wrong that can be corrected.
Remember that gingivitis is reversible, and with some work and a good collaborative effort with you and your dentist, you gums can enter back into a pink and healthy state. Dr. Steven Hagerman and his staff provide friendly and caring dentistry in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. For cleanings, general dentistry, and cosmetic procedures call (651) 646-2392 for an appointment today.