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Gingivitis: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

What is Gingivitis?

woman brushing her teeth

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums, a very common and early form of periodontal disease. It causes infection and inflammation of the gum and teeth tissue, the periodontal ligaments that connect your teeth to the bone and the tooth sockets.

When there is a long-standing build up of plaque on your teeth, that’s when gingivitis can creep in. This is why brushing and flossing daily is a key component to the prevention and treatment of gingivitis. If plaque is not removed from the teeth, it turns into tartar, or calculus, which gets trapped at the base of your teeth and can cause tender, infected, and swollen gums. Left untreated, gingivitis can turn into periodontitis and cause receding gums.

Brushing and flossing twice daily will help to prevent plaque buildup. If plaque is left too long on your teeth, it can form a hard outer shield, which locks in bacteria and can be very difficult to penetrate. If the plaque hardens, it can only be removed by your dentist. This is one of the many reasons why it is so important to get a professional teeth cleaning every six months!

What are factors that can increase my risk for Gingivitis?

Health Factors:

  • Genetics
  • Diabetes
  • Poor Nutrition
  • Smoking
  • Substance Abuse
  • Age
  • Gender- woman are more likely to suffer from gingivitis due to their hormonal changes
  • Certain medications

Symptoms

  • Swollen and tender gums
  • Shiny gums
  • Bleeding gums- especially while brushing and flossing
  • Mouth sores
  • Receding gums
  • Bad breath

If you are currently or have recently experienced any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your Periodontist as soon as possible and make sure to keep up with your routine dental cleanings. Practicing proper dental hygiene is a great way to treat and prevent gingivitis from occurring in the first place as well as preventing it from progressing any further. Brushing and flossing twice daily is the biggest step you can take towards a healthier, happier smile!

Picture of women smiling A recent study from a university in Brazil has found that women who take estrogen for osteoporosis are 44% less likely to have severe periodontitis. While it is well known that hormone levels occurring throughout a woman’s lifetime will affect her gums, this study is one of the first to find that estrogen, specifically, may prevent gum disease.

Women and Gum Health

Women go through numerous changes in hormone levels throughout their lives. Some of the most obvious and well known of these changes are puberty, the menstruation cycle, pregnancy and menopause. For example, girls going through puberty often experience irritated gums, as do pregnant women.

About Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is the weakening of bones. The disease is often attributed to hormonal changes in postmenopausal women, or to a vitamin D or calcium deficiency.

The Study

The study was conducted at the University of Bahia in Brazil, and published in Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society (July 2017 issue, Vol. 24). Examining the cases of 500 postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, 113 of whom chose estrogen therapy for treatment, researchers followed the women for a year. Among other findings, which included the importance of income and dental visit frequency on periodontitis, was the finding that those who received estrogen therapy were much less likely to have severe gum disease.

What does this mean?

The results offer great information for those of us in oral (and other) health fields. They help us to better understand and possibly predict gum issues, and may even lead someday to updated recommendations for periodontal care in women.

Should I be on estrogen?

Not necessarily. While the link appears to be a good one, periodontal disease alone is not enough to warrant hormone replacement therapy in women. Regular check-ins with your physician are the only way to know if you need estrogen replacement therapy.

We are happy to bring you the latest in periodontal news! Please call our office at 408-371-7616 with any questions you may have about your care.

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