Gingivitis is simply the inflammation of the gums (known as gingiva). It occurs most commonly when a sticky film of bacteria known as plaque surrounds the teeth, as it does constantly. If the plaque is not removed with proper daily brushing and flossing, the gums can become irritated, inflamed, and may even bleed. The irritated or inflamed gum tissue can separate from the teeth and form spaces. Left untreated, the process can continue until any tooth-supporting materials such as tissue or bone are destroyed. Gingivitis is the first step to the much more serious periodontitis, which can lead to loss of teeth and can also affect one’s overall health. However, it is also an early step and is therefore usually completely reversible.
Gingivitis is most commonly caused by plaque build-up but can also be caused by certain genetic factors or even malnutrition. In any case, patients suffering from gingivitis will usually have red, puffy gums that are sometimes painful to the touch and that may bleed when brushed. In milder cases there may be no experiences of discomfort whatsoever, but this does not mean that there should be less concern.
Where plaque is concerned, not only can it cause halitosis of the mouth (bad breath), but it is also responsible for the development of tartar, an unappealing yellowish film that forms at the base of the teeth and irritates the gums further. Tartar is so difficult to deal with that it can only be removed by a dental professional.
As previously mentioned, if caught early by checking for its specific symptoms, gingivitis can be easily and successfully reversed. Treatment involves care from a dental professional, but it is then up to the patient to carry out the necessary follow-up procedures at home. These procedures include brushing twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and rinsing using antiseptic mouthwash regularly.