Gingivitis affects 50% of adults
Gingivitis affects 50% of adults

Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums and is the initial stage of gum disease. It is caused by poor oral hygiene and poor plaque removal from the teeth.

Good diabetes control and keeping good oral hygiene can help to prevent gingivitis developing into more serious forms of gum disease.

How common is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is a very common condition.

The NHS reports that approximately half of adults in the UK have either gingivitis or a more serious form of gum disease.

What are the symptoms of gingivitis?

The signs of gingivitis include:

  • Swelling or inflammation of the gums
  • Redness - healthy gums should appear pink
  • Bleeding of the gums - particularly noticeable following brushing
  • Painful gums

What causes gingivitis?

Throughout the day plaque builds up on teeth, which is a sticky white film made up of food, saliva and bacteria. If plaque is not removed from teeth regularly and effectively, the bacteria in the plaque release toxins, which irritate the gums.

The gums subsequently become inflamed and this is known as gingivitis.

This effect can be more pronounced with sugary foods or refined carbohydrate (such as white bread). When these foods are broken down, the glucose mixes with bacteria to produce further plaque.

If our blood sugar levels are high, our saliva will have higher levels of glucose too and this encourages bacteria to grow and increases the risk of our gums becoming damaged.

Is gingivitis dangerous?

Luckily gingivitis is reversible, and through improving your oral hygiene techniques and visiting your dentist or hygienist, you should be able to return to having pink and healthy gums.

The main danger of gingivitis is if it is not treated. Untreated gingivitis can develop into more serious forms of gum disease such as periodontitis or acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (see below).

How is gingivitis treated?

Gingivitis it treated by improving your oral hygiene regime: making sure teeth are cleaned effectively twice daily and using an interdental to clean in between the teeth daily to remove plaque. Your dentist or dental hygienist can give you advice on a home dental health care program.

Keeping blood glucose levels well controlled will also help to prevent gingivitis from developing.

Acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis

Acute necrotising ulcerative gingivitis is less common than gingivitis or periodontitis but often more severe. Symptoms may include bleeding gums, ulcers, a metallic taste in the mouth, difficulty swallowing or talking and may cause you to have a high temperature.

The HS advise visiting your dentist immediately if these symptoms are present.

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