The gum is the pink-coloured mucous tissue surrounding your teeth. In response to aggression (tobacco, alcohol, infection or tartar), it inflames, producing gingivitis.
The concept of gingivitis
Gingivitis is inflamation of the gum, which swells, turns red instead of pink and bleeds at the slightest touch, on brushing your teeth if you knock it, on eating, and even sometimes spontaneously at night, to the extent that your pillow will be stained with blood when you waken in the morning.
This said, you don’t have to bleed to have gingivitis, as it can exist without bleeding. This is often the case in heavy smokers, given that nicotine closes the small arteries in the gum, preventing it from bleeding. This is how the alarm may fail to sound out despite having an important problem.
Often, gingivitis is to be found between two teeth. This tends to be due to leftover food in the space between them, or between crossed teeth that are difficult to brush, or because there is a space between two teeth which gradually fills with food.
It can also affect the whole mouth. In this case it is generally due to smoking, diabetes, poor brushing technique or insufficient brushing, etc.
If left untreated, gingivitis will cause your gums to recede, revealing the roots and leaving black spaces between your teeth, eventually leading to tooth loss.
Causes of gingivitis
The most common causes of gingivitis are dental plaque (a combination of leftover food, bacteria and saliva proteins) and the presence of tartar.
Both dental plaque and tartar are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria and, therefore, for gum infection.
Gingivitis is often connected to poor or incorrect oral hygiene and is favoured by certain situations, such as multiple caries or poorly made fillings, pregnancy (due to hormonal issues), diabetes, drinking alcohol when combined with smoking, sensitivity, depression, stress, neurological issues making it difficult for the person to brush their teeth, teenagers at a rebellious age who refuse to brush them, etc.
Treatment for gingivitis
To treat gingivitis, the patient must improve their oral hygiene, brush their teeth after every meal and avoid eating between meals, particularly refined sugars and sweet foods that stick to their teeth.
It is important to have their teeth cleaned by the dentist. This will remove the tartar which helps to keep the gingivitis in place.
It is also advisable, during a short period of time, to use a toothpaste and mouthwash containing chlorhexidine, a powerful antiseptic which will reduce swelling in the gums and attack the bacteria responsible for causing the gingivitis.
Good dental hygiene is the only way to prevent severe gingivitis.
Brushing your teeth is essential for good oral hygiene and must be done 3 times a day, after every meal, provided that you keep your mouth reasonably clean the rest of the time. This means that a person who brushes their teeth after having breakfast, but who eats chocolate and sweets at work every morning, should also keep a toothbrush at work – and use it.
A balanced diet, rich in fruit and vegetables, helps the oral mucosa to resist potential aggressions.
Electric toothbrushes improve oral hygiene, provided that they are used as often as is required. Some people still prefer a manual toothbrush as they find it easier to use, or perhaps because they’re more accustomed to it. Both kinds of brush protect against decay and gingivitis if properly used.
The best kind of manual toothbrush is medium, i.e. neither too hard – as this will be aggressive towards your gums and roots – nor too soft, as this will be ineffective in removing food from between your teeth. You must change your toothbrush every one or two months, depending on how worn it is. Using it with too much strength won’t improve the cleaning, but it will wear your brush down sooner.
There are other ways of helping you to fight dental plaque and its consequences on your gums. Dental floss and interdental brushes help to eliminate leftover food packed between your teeth, something which happens more frequently the older you get. Interdental brushes are essential if you have already suffered from severe gingivitis and don’t want it to reappear. In cases such as these it is advisable to use specific toothpastes and mouthwashes to protect your gums, and that you use them every day over a prolonged amount of time.
Making a yearly visit to your dentist for a check-up and clean is essential.