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Gingivitis (Gum Disease) – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Mild inflammation of the gijm margins (gingivitis) is very common and occurs in
about 9 out of 10 adults. Healthy gums are pink and firm. In gingivitis, the gums
become purple-red, soft and shiny and bleed easily, especially when brushed.
The condition is usually caused by build-up of plaque (a deposit of food particles, mucus and bacteria) where the gum meets the base of the tooth.

Gingivitis can be made worse by taking some drugs, such as phenytoin for epilepsy and antihypertensives. These drugs may cause overgrowth of the gums, making the removal of dental plaque difficult. Some contraceptive drugs can also make the symptoms worse. Pregnant women are particularly susceptible to gingivitis because of dramatic changes in their hormone levels.

If gingivitis develops suddenly in acute form, it is known as ‘trench mouth ”, usually occurring in teenagers and young adults. The condition sometimes develops from chronic gingivitis and is caused by an abnormal growth of the bacteria that normally exist harmlessly within the mouth. Trench mouth is more common in people who are stressed or run down and in people with AIDS.

Symptoms of Gingivitis

The symptoms of gingivitis develop gradually and usually include:

  • purple-red, soft, shiny, swollen gums
  • gums that bleed when brushed.

If gingivitis is not treated, a pocket develops between the tooth and the gum in which more dental plaque can form. Bacteria in the plaque may cause the inflammation to spread. Eventually, chronic periodontitis or receding gums may develop. In severe cases, one or
more teeth may be lost.

Symptoms of trench mouth usually develop over 1-2 days and may include:

  • bright red gums that are covered with a greyish deposit
  • crater-like ulcers on the gums
  • gums that bleed easily
  • bad breath and a metallic taste in the mouth
  • pain in the gums.

As trench mouth progresses, the lymph glands in the neck may become enlarged and you may develop a fever.

Treatment of Gingivitis

  • Gingivitis is treated and prevented by effective tooth-brushing and oral hygiene to remove plaque from around the gum margin.
  • If you have gingivitis, your dentist will probably scale your teeth to remove the plaque and calculus (hardened plaque). The procedure involves using an ultrasonic scaler to remove the calculus and scraping away at resistant areas with a hand tool. After scaling, the teeth are polished. Regular follow-up visits to the dentist may be necessary to monitor the condition of your gums. Your dentist may also recommend using an antiseptic mouthwash.
  • If you have trench mouth, your dentist will clean carefully around all the teeth. He or she will also prescribe antibiotics and an antiseptic mouthwash. Analgesics may be prescribed to relieve pain. Once your teeth have been scaled and cleaned, your gums will gradually return to normal.
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