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Gingivitis: Symptoms and Causes in Philadelphia

Have you seen some blood on your gums or floss while performing your daily dental hygiene routine? Have you or someone else noticed that your breath isn’t as fresh as it should be? In either case, these are signs that you could have gingivitis, the initial stage of periodontal disease or gum disease. Continue reading for more information about the signs, causes and treatment of gingivitis and what can happen if you ignore them.

How Common Is Gingivitis? Can It Be Prevented?

Among adults aged 30 and older, nearly half have some form of periodontal disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Without treatment, it can progress into chronic periodontitis. This advanced stage of the disease involves the deterioration of the bone and tissues that support the teeth. As a result, the teeth can become loose and eventually fall out.

Based on statistics from the American Academy of Periodontology, about 38% of women have gum disease, while about 56% of men have the condition. Additionally, the chances of the disease developing increases with age because 70% of seniors 65 and older have it, says the CDC. Fortunately, it’s possible to prevent and treat gum disease during the first stage, which is gingivitis. As a result, it’s beneficial to understand the warning signs, and seek dental treatment as soon as possible if you experience any of them.

What Are the Gum Disease Symptoms?

When you have healthy gums, they fit closely around your teeth without any gaps in between. They’re also pale pink and firm. If you have gingivitis, your gums probably won’t be painful, but you’ll notice several other signs of the inflammation and irritation:

  • Altered bite or new space between your teeth
  • Blood from your gums when flossing or brushing
  • Gums that are dark purple or red
  • Pain or sensitivity when eating
  • Painful or tender gums to the touch
  • Persistent bad breath or taste
  • Puffed-up or swollen gums
  • Receding gumline or gaps between your teeth and gums
  • Teeth are loose

Why Does Gingivitis Develop?

A sticky, soft and invisible film, plaque is mainly comprised of bacteria and can form on your teeth if you don’t practice good dental hygiene. The plaque forms from the interaction between the carbohydrates and sugars that you eat and the bacteria in your mouth. Because of that, plaque constantly re-forms, making daily brushing and flossing essential to remove it.

When it’s left unchecked, plaque will harden under your gumline and turn into tartar, also called calculus. It becomes a protective shield for the bacteria, and you can’t remove it without a professional teeth cleaning. If you don’t remove it, the coating infects the gingiva, causing inflammation of the gum tissue that surrounds the base of your teeth. Continuing to ignore the gingivitis can lead to chronic periodontitis, which may mean that you could eventually lose your teeth. Tooth decay also is likely.

Are There Risk Factors That Make Gum Disease More Likely?

Gingivitis can develop in anyone, especially in those who don’t follow proper oral care practices. However, there are other factors that may increase your risk, including:

  • Birth control pills, pregnancy and menstrual hormonal changes
  • Conditions that weaken the immune system, including HIV, AIDS, cancer and diabetes
  • Defective dental fillings
  • Family genetics
  • Medications, especially ones that dry out your mouth
  • Poor nutrient and vitamin intake
  • Poorly fitting restorations, such as dentures and bridges
  • Using tobacco either by chewing or smoking

Can Gingivitis Cause Other Problems with Your Health?

Tissue, tooth and bone loss are a few of the ramifications of having severe periodontal disease. According to studies, the condition may be a contributing factor for systemic health problems, too. Although researchers once believed that bacteria was the linking element, now they believe that inflammation is. Below are health issues that have a connection with gum disease:

Heart Disease: The AAP explains that gum disease could increase the risk of heart disease. However, research hasn’t proven a cause-and-effect relationship between the conditions.

Stroke: Compared to a control group, one study found that people who had strokes from brain artery blockages were more likely to have gum disease. Separate research suggests that treating gum disease reduces the risk of such strokes. Also, the risk for seriously blocked brain arteries was 2.4 times higher for people with gingivitis.

Respiratory Disease: Researchers have discovered that in people with gum disease, the bacteria in their mouths can get into their lungs. Because of that, they could develop pneumonia and other respiratory conditions.

Cancer: The risk for certain cancers rises for people who have gum disease. Men are particularly at risk because they have a higher incidence of periodontal disease than women. Compared to men who don’t have the condition, the risk for cancer among affected men is 14% higher. Below are some more statistics related to men with gum disease and their risk for certain cancers:

  • 30% increased risk of developing blood cancers
  • 49% increased risk of developing kidney cancer
  • 54% increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer

Diabetes: When people with diabetes have uncontrolled blood sugar levels, they increase their risk for periodontal disease compared to those who control their blood sugars. In turn, serious periodontal disease may increase blood sugar levels, putting them at a greater risk for complications, including loss of vision, kidney disease and nerve damage.

How Can Gum Disease Be Prevented and Treated?

The best way to prevent or control gingivitis is to practice healthy dental habits at home. Talk to your dentist about how many times you should brush and floss every day to remove bacteria and plaque. It’s important to visit your dentist for regular cleanings, as well.

When you catch gingivitis early, it’s usually reversible with a professional cleaning and good at-home dental hygiene habits. If the inflammation has progressed further, the dentist could suggest scaling and root planing to remove the plaque and tartar under your gums. Make an appointment with us to find out what our dentist suggests for you.

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