Glossary: Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums (gingiva) around the teeth due to improper cleaning of teeth. The condition is generally reversible. Brushing teeth with toothpaste and flossing with dental floss are the best ways to prevent gingivitis.


Gingivitis is usually caused by improper cleaning of teeth. When the teeth are not cleaned properly, the plaque irritates the gums. Bacteria and toxins may cause the gums to become red and swollen. Contributing factors include pregnancy and uncontrolled diabetes, due to hormonal changes that may increase the susceptibility of the gums and/or alter the composition of the dentogingival microflora. Hormonal changes during puberty also may put one at risk for gingivitis. The risk of gingivitis is increased by dental calculus, misaligned teeth, the rough edges of fillings, and ill fitting or unclean dentures, bridges, and crowns. The drug phenytoin and birth control pills, and ingestion of heavy metals such as lead and bismuth also may cause gingivitis.


The symptoms of gingivitis are as follows: Swollen gums Mouth sores Bright-red, or purple gums Shiny gums Gums that are painless, except when touched Gums that bleed easily, even with gentle brushing


Gingivitis can be prevented through regular oral hygiene, including the brushing and flossing of the teeth.


It is recommended that a dentist be seen after the signs of gingivitis appear. A dentist will check for the symptoms of gingivitis, and may also examine the amount of plaque in the oral cavity. A dentist may also test for periodontitis, by the use of X-rays, or by gingival probing.


A dentist or dental hygienist will perform a thorough cleaning of the teeth and gums. Following that, persistent oral hygiene is necessary. The removal of plaque is usually not painful, and the inflammation of the gums should be gone between one and two weeks. Oral hygiene is required to prevent the recurrence of gingivitis. Anti-bacterial rinses or mouthwash may reduce the swelling. [edit] Complications

Recurrence of gingivitis Periodontitis Infection or abscess of the gingiva or the jaw bones Trench mouth (bacterial infection and ulceration of the gums)

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