If you experience sore gums or notice blood when you brush your teeth, you are not alone. The Centers for Disease Control report that half of all Americans over the age of 30 have some form of periodontal disease. The good news is it is not too late to save your teeth and your oral health. Gingivitis, the early stage of periodontal disease, is your mouth’s warning sign that something is wrong. Treating gingivitis allows you to reverse the damage and stop the progression to periodontitis. Periodontitis can cause permanent damage to your gums, teeth, and bone, often leading to bone loss.
At Laguna Vista Dental, our goal is to make sure you have optimal oral health, and this begins with treating, reversing, and preventing gingivitis.
What is gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and is your body’s naturally warning sign that your oral health is in jeopardy. Plaque is the natural sticky film loaded with bacteria that develops on your teeth throughout the day. You remove this plaque with regular brushing and flossing. Unfortunately, plaque can still remain and, if allowed to build up on, it can begin to weaken the enamel on your teeth, as well as irritate your gums. This irritation leads to inflammation of the gums, causing gingivitis. If left untreated, this can progress to periodontitis and eventual tooth loss.
While plaque build-up is the main factor for gingivitis, other things can also increase your risk. These can include:
- Smoking – Smoking and tobacco use is one of the greatest risk factors for developing gum disease.
- Poor oral hygiene – A poor oral hygiene routine promotes plaque buildup and increases your risk of oral complications, including gingivitis.
- Stress – If you suffer from constant stress, chances are your immune system may suffer. This makes it easier for the bacteria in plaque to irritate your gums.
- Hormonal changes – Everything from puberty to menopause can affect the sensitivity levels in your gums, making you more prone to gum disease.
- Poor nutrition – When the body struggles to get the nutrients it needs, it suffers. This includes your gums and the ability to fight infections.
- Medications – Certain medications can affect your oral health and your gum’s ability to fight infections. Be sure to let your dentist know what medications you take.
- Chronic medical conditions – Conditions such as Sjogren’s Syndrome, diabetes, cancer, and HIV can affect how your body fights infections and can increase your risk for gingivitis.
Signs and symptoms of gingivitis
When your gums are healthy, they will be pale pink in color, firm to the touch, and fit tightly around the teeth they support. When plaque builds up and causes inflammation in the gums, you can experience a variety of different symptoms, including:
- Swollen and puffy gums
- Gums that appear dark red in color
- Bleeding from the gums, especially when brushing and flossing
- Persistent bad breath
- Gums may be tender to the touch
If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is time to see your dentist. Gingivitis is treatable and reversible, if caught early enough. If left untreated and allowed to progress, you may notice your gums receding or pulling away from the teeth. In addition, you may experience tooth pain or sensitivity. When this occurs, you have progress to periodontitis, which is no longer reversible and puts you at risk of tooth loss.
Is periodontitis the same as gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease but is reversible. However, if you leave gingivitis untreated, it progresses to periodontitis or the advanced stages of gum disease. When this occurs, plaque gets below the gum line and begins to create pockets between the teeth and gums. This can lead to severe gum recession, tooth instability, changes in tooth alignment, and eventual tooth loss.
How to reverse and cure gingivitis
The good news is that there are ways to cure gingivitis. So, it is possible to restore healthy gums and save your teeth. However, you must act at the first sign of gingivitis. The following tips can help you prevent, as well as reverse gingivitis.
1. Good oral hygiene
Preventing and reversing gingivitis begins with a good oral hygiene routine. The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth for at least two minutes, twice a day and flossing at least once a day. You should use a soft-bristled toothbrush and replace your toothbrush with a new one every three to four months. This helps to remove plaque from the surface of your teeth before it can build up and cause gum inflammation. If you already have inflammation, additional plaque buildup will cause it to progress. Removing plaque allows the gum to heal and return to a healthy state.
2. Professional dental cleanings
While regular brushing and flossing are essential, they can’t always remove plaque build-up. This is why it is so important to attend regular professional cleanings with your dentist at least every six months. If you are trying to reverse gingivitis, your dentist may recommend professional cleanings more often, like three to four months. The specialized tools dental experts use, such as ultrasonic devices, help break up plaque and leave your teeth and gums plaque-free.
3. Antibacterial and homemade mouthwashes
Antibacterial mouthwashes, as well as some all-natural mouthwashes you can make at home, help kill the bacteria in plaque that causes gum inflammation and gingivitis. Rinsing your mouth with one of these mouthwashes twice a day for at least 30 seconds can help kill the bacteria in your mouth and help reverse gingivitis. If you purchase a commercial mouthwash, look for one designed for gingivitis. As an alternative, you can try these at-home mouthwash options that often offer more benefits than commercial mouthwash.
- Tea tree oil mouthwash – Tea tree oil has natural antibacterial properties that work to kill the bacteria responsible for gingivitis. In fact, a 2020 study showed that tea tree oil mouthwash offers better improvement in gingivitis treatment than a traditional mouthwash with chlorhexidine. Simply mix up to three drops of tea tree oil with warm water and swish in your mouth for 30 seconds. Start with a diluted amount at first to test for possible allergies. If you are on any medications, talk with your dentist before trying tea tree oil.
- Lemongrass mouthwash – Lemongrass is another herbal ingredient that offers antibacterial properties and is a wonderful alternative to commercial mouthwashes. A 2015 study showed that lemongrass oil mouthwash offered a significant reduction in the plaque and gingival index compared to the standard chlorhexidine mouthwash. Simply mix a drop or two of lemongrass oil with warm water and use like traditional mouthwash. Lemongrass is very potent, so start with a diluted solution at first to avoid irritation.
- Aloe vera mouthwash – Aloe vera offers natural anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Not only will this mouthwash help kill the bacteria causing your gingivitis, but it will also help reduce the inflammation. Studies show aloe vera is just as effective as chlorhexidine mouthwash. The difference with aloe vera is you do not need to dilute it to use. Simply swish it around in your mouth for 30 seconds and spit it out.
4. Scaling and root planing
If gingivitis progresses and starts to cause pockets between your teeth and gums, causing the gums to recess, your dentist may recommend scaling and root planing. This specialized professional cleaning helps remove plaque and tartar from below the gum line and in these pockets. In addition, if damage has begun on the tooth root, root planing smooths it and helps your gums reattach to the teeth.
5. Laser dentistry
Similar to scaling and root planing, laser treatment for periodontal disease uses a laser to kill the bacteria in the pockets and utilizes an ultrasonic cleaner to remove debris. The energy in the laser warms cells within the gum to create a seal of tissue against the root of the tooth. This helps reconnect your gum to the tooth root. Laser dentistry reduces bleeding, healing time, and helps minimize the risk of bacterial infection.
How long does it take to reverse gingivitis?
Treatment for gingivitis will depend on the level of damage you have. However, if you follow good oral hygiene and the other suggested treatment options, you should see improvement within a few days to weeks. You will see the light pink color return. You should not experience bleeding when brushing your teeth, and the swelling should all go down.
Improve your oral health today by addressing gingivitis
If you are experiencing symptoms of gingivitis, all is not lost. You can still save your teeth and achieve good oral health. At Laguna Vista Dental, our goal is to help you achieve a healthy, beautiful smile – and that begins with your gums. Our caring team is here to help create an individualized treatment plan that reverses gingivitis and gives you back healthy gums. Contact us online today or call our office at (916) 684-3105 and schedule an appointment so we can help you achieve the healthy, beautiful smile you want.