Any stage of gum disease (or gingivitis) can cause inflammation, pain, and sensitivity. It can make eating and talking difficult. It’s important to know what causes gum disease and what can happen if it develops, so that you can avoid it altogether or at least catch it before it wreaks havoc on your mouth.
What causes gingivitis?
Plaque buildup is the main cause of gum disease, although other factors can lead to it as well. These include:
- Illnesses, especially those that interfere with your immune system. Patients with HIV, diabetes, and cancer are often at higher risk for gingivitis.
- Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy, menstruation, puberty, and menopause.
- Some medications affect oral health by decreasing saliva or causing abnormal growth of gum tissue.
- Smoking can hamper the healing of your gums.
- Poor dental hygiene, including neglecting brushing or flossing, or using improper techniques.
- Family history of gum disease.
What are the symptoms?
Gingivitis can sneak up without symptoms, even in the later stages of the disease. However, there are signs that may point to some level of gingivitis. These include bleeding, red, or swollen gums. Ongoing bad breath and receding gums are other symptoms. Deep pockets may form between the teeth and gums, and teeth may shift or loosen. You might also notice changes in how your teeth fit together when you bite down. Your dentist can recognize symptoms even if you don’t, so make sure you have checkups regularly.
How is gingivitis treated?
Treatment depends on the stage of your gum disease, how you responded to previous treatment, and your general health. Treatments range from therapies to control bacterial growth to surgery to restore gum tissue. Often gingivitis can be controlled with dental visits and good dental hygiene.
What can happen without treatment?
Gingivitis may advance to periodontitis, causing permanent damage to your mouth. Advanced gum disease has been linked to stroke, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes complications.
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