Everyone’s heard the term gingivitis, probably more due to the size of the Listerine ad buys year in and year out. It sounds important, so the term is a copywriter’s dream. But no one really knows what it means. But it is important to have a handle on gingivitis, beyond the Listerine commercials.
What is gingivitis?
Its name sounds like a serious disease or something. But 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. 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.
What are signs of gingivitis?
OK, so now you know what gingivitis is, but how do you know when you have it? 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. Beyond that, at the Doctors of Dental Medicine we treat gingivitis with these methods:
- Prophylactic cleaning
Twice-yearly cleanings with our office are the first step. 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, and 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.
At the Doctors of Dental Medicine, we’ll help you with your gingivitis far beyond what Listerine can do! Call us for an appointment, 732-329-3113.