Woman with gingivitis
Gingivitis is the term dentists use to describe gum inflammation caused by bacterial infection. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to a more serious condition known as periodontitis. According to the American Dental Association, both conditions are major causes of tooth loss.

How Does Gingivitis Develop?

When you look in the mirror at your teeth, the only part visible to you is the crown that sits above the gum line. You can’t see the roots, nerves, and tissues below the gum line at all. Your gums and teeth attach at a point not visible to you called the sulcus. When food and plaque become trapped in the sulcus, it can lead to the inflammation that causes gingivitis and eventually periodontitis.

Plaque typically develops due to a lack of proper attention to oral hygiene. It consists of a micro-thin film of bacteria coating the teeth. Since plaque forms continually, the only defense against it is frequent brushing. Flossing also helps to remove plaque from between your teeth. As plaque continues to build, it turns into a hard substance called tartar. An infection can develop when tartar gets below the gum line.

Consequences of Gingivitis

As gingivitis continues unchecked and untreated, it causes the affected teeth and gums to separate. Unfortunately, this can lead to an injury of the soft tissue and the bone that supports your teeth. If one or more of your teeth feel loose and they never did before, there’s a good chance that you’re dealing with gingivitis. Your dentist has little choice but to extract the tooth once it has become infected. In severe cases, the tooth could even fall out on its own.

Risk Factors and Symptoms of Gingivitis

Besides practicing inconsistent oral hygiene, the likelihood of you developing gingivitis increases with these risk factors:

  • Broken fillings
  • Certain oral medications, including anticonvulsants, calcium channel blockers, chemotherapy drugs, oral contraceptives, and steroids
  • Chewing or smoking tobacco
  • Compromised immunity such as people with HIV/AIDS
  • Crooked teeth
  • Diabetes
  • Genetic factors
  • Poorly fitting dental appliances
  • Pregnancy

While you obviously can’t control all these risk factors, it’s important to control the ones you can.

One of the most obvious indications that you could have gingivitis is when you notice that your gums are red, tender, or bleeding. Other signs to look for include:

  • Bad breath even after regular brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash
  • Bleeding after you brush or floss your teeth
  • Change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Gums that have separated from teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Pain when you chew
  • Partial dentures no longer fit
  • Pus appearing between your teeth and gums
  • Tooth sensitivity

Please schedule an appointment with Southbridge Dentistry if you notice any of these symptoms.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Gingivitis

When you visit the dentist, he or she will probe your gums with a small ruler to check for inflammation. This also helps to measure gum pockets around your teeth. You may have gingivitis if the gum pockets are greater than one to three millimeters. The dentist will also check for bone loss due to infection.

The most common treatment for gingivitis is scheduling a deep cleaning of your teeth with Southbridge Dentistry. You might also receive a prescription for antibiotics. Our dentists reserve gingivitis surgery for the worst cases that don’t respond to more conservative treatment efforts. It’s also essential that you practice a consistent oral healthcare routine at home.

For additional questions or to schedule an exam, please contact the Southbridge Dentistry office at 303-798-4967.