What is gingivitis/bleeding gums?
Gingiva is the soft tissue that surrounds the tooth and covers its supporting bone. Healthy gums indicate strong supporting bone and stable teeth. Gingivitis is the inflammation or disease of gums in its initial stages.
Dental plaque is the primary reason in initiating gingivitis. Dental plaque consists of salivary proteins which harbour microorganisms. A pellicle layer gets formed on teeth surface immediately after cleaning. Saliva and salivary proteins are the source of this pellicle. Microorganisms get attached to this layer and gradually, plaque gets formed over surfaces of teeth. In the initial stages, it can be cleaned easily. If left uncleaned, it can get converted to hard deposits called calculus or tartar.
Since dental plaque harbours microorganisms which release toxic products, the gums which are in close contact with these deposits get irritated or inflamed causing Gingivitis. The inflamed gum appears red or purple, is swollen and bleeds spontaneously. Gingivitis might also be associated with bad breath which is also known as halitosis.
What are the symptoms of gingivitis?
Gingivitis is a painless condition. Hence the symptoms are not recognized in the initial stages. Gingivitis is completely reversible, when treated in the early stages. The initial symptoms of Gingivitis are;
- Bright red or purple gums.
- Swollen and puffy gums
- Gums tender or painful to touch.
- Bleeding gums. Gums bleed while brushing, while consuming food or spontaneously.
- Receding gums.
- Bad breath also known as Halitosis.
Early recognition of the problem and treatment ensures healthy teeth. If left untreated, it might progress to Periodontitis.
What are the reasons for gingivitis or bleeding from gums?
Bleeding from gums is a very common problem across the world and people often tend to ignore this symptom. Bleeding gums point to the underlying Gingivitis.
Factors such as tartar, poor oral hygiene, mechanical irritation from faulty prosthesis/restoration (tooth filling) or general factors like vitamin C deficiency, bleeding disorders, hormonal changes, few medicines lead to gingivitis and bleeding from gums
Vit C deficiency: Can lead to defective formation of factors which are crucial in blood clotting. Hence persons suffering from Vit C deficiency tend to bleed easily. This is also visible as bleeding from gums.
Vit C supplements after proper screening and as per the suggestion of physician can improve the condition.
Bleeding disorders: These disorders are due to defect in clotting factors of the blood and should be treated accordingly
Hormonal changes: Hormonal changes during Puberty, Menstrual cycle, Pregnancy; Menopause might sensitize gums and alter the type of microorganism growth in gums. This can predispose the individual to gingivitis.
Medications: Few of the medicines like anti hypertensives used to treat blood pressure, anti-convulsants which are used to treat convulsions might act as a predisposing factor for gingivitis. Consultation with the attending physician and changing the medicines should easily solve this problem.
What are the causes of gingivitis?
A thin bacterial bio-film called plaque that is adhered to tooth surface is the main reason for gingivitis. The microorganisms in the plaque produce chemicals that irritate & destroy the gum tissue.
The hardened plaque called tartar or calculus mechanically irritates the gums and also harbors microorganisms that release toxins into the gum tissue.
These irritants induce swelling in gums, and bleeding either while brushing or spontaneously.
What are the consequences of gingivitis?
If left untreated, Gingivitis can progress to Periodontitis. This is inflammation of supporting structures of the teeth. Symptoms of Periodontitis can be:
- Gum abscess
- Pus accumulation in the gums.
- Teeth displacement.
- Pocket formation.
- Tooth mobility.
- Bad breath.
- Jaw bone infection
- Tooth loss.
What is the treatment for gingivitis or what is scaling?
- Plaque and tartar are the main causative factors of gingivitis.
So the treatment of gingivitis aims at removal of these factors thus ensuring health for gums. This procedure is called as Scaling and Root planing.
Scaling and Root planing: It is done by the dental professionals and is not painful. There can be sensitivity in teeth whose roots are exposed. Scaling is usually done with ultrasonic instruments which remove the debris through ultrasonic vibrations over the debris without affecting the gums.
Root planing is done to remove deposits over the root surface.
These procedures help to reduce bacterial count in the gums and re-establish adequate blood supply.
After the dental scaling and root planning treatment, patient might be put on mouthwash and advised about maintaining oral hygiene in future. Inter-dental brushes might be advised as and when required.
What are the preventive measures ?
The various gum disease preventive measures are:
Maintaining good oral hygiene by following proper brushing & flossing techniques
Regular dental visits & scaling when required.
Controlling systemic disorders like Diabetes Mellitus or treating existing hormonal disorders
Replace faulty dental fillings.