If your gums are swollen, painful and irritated, and assume a darker shade of red, then you may be having periodontal disease (gum disease).
Gum disease occurs in two sequential stages: Gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease, and is exemplified by mild to moderate inflammation and irritation of the gums. If not detected and treated early enough, gingivitis develops into periodontitis - a more serious and painful condition. In a worst-case scenario, periodontitis destroys the entire jaw bone.
As mentioned earlier, the leading cause of gingivitis is poor or improper dental care and hygiene. For instance, if you don't brush your teeth regularly, there will be an accumulation of bacteria, mucus and food particles (plaque) on your teeth, which causes decay over time. Additionally, unchecked plaque buildup eventually develops into tartar, which being a heavier compound, sticks to the base of the teeth, hence accelerating the onset of gingivitis.
Other key causes of gingivitis include tobacco use, untreated diabetes, and hormonal changes during pregnancy. Further, brushing or flossing aggressively may injure your gums, resulting in gingivitis. You can also develop gingivitis from:
Medications such as Dilantin and some contraceptive pills
Poorly aligned teeth
Improperly fitted braces and dentures
A genetic predisposition to gum disease from your family roots
The following are the signs and symptoms that symbolize gingivitis:
Pain when chewing food
Regular bleeding of gums
Mouth sores that keep on reappearing
Easily irritated gums
Loose or shaking teeth
Gums being tender to the touch
Bad breath that never goes away even when you brush
Gingivitis can be diagnosed through basic dental examination, in addition to an analysis of your medical history. The crucial areas that your dentist may check during the test include the teeth and the gum tissue. This is normally done using a probe - a small tool that looks like a ruler. If the mentioned areas show above average measurements, it could be a sign of gingivitis.
Dental x-rays are also used to confirm previous diagnosis or examine the jawbone for signs of bone tissue loss, which mainly occurs due to gingivitis.
Depending on the extent of your gingivitis, your dentist will recommend a thorough dental cleaning of your mouth and teeth. They may also prescribe medications to deal with the bacteria and inflammation. Last but not least, the dentist will strongly advise you to adopt good oral health care practices to control the gingivitis and stop it from developing into periodontitis.
When gum disease is not treated correctly, or followed up with proper oral health care, it may affect your overall immunity.
Good oral health care and hygiene practices include brushing your teeth at least twice a day, flossing, and going for periodic dental checkups and cleanings. By doing all that, you will not only be reducing your risk of developing gingivitis, but other more serious dental problems as well.