Gingivitis is a form of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease involves inflammation and infection that destroys the tissues that support the teeth, including the gums, the periodontal ligaments, and the tooth sockets (alveolar bone).
Gingivitis is due to the long-term effects of plaque deposits. Plaque is a sticky material made of bacteria, mucus, and food debris that develops on the exposed parts of the teeth. It is a major cause of tooth decay. If you do not remove plaque, it turns into a hard deposit called tartar that becomes trapped at the base of the tooth. Plaque and tartar irritate and inflame the gums. Bacteria and the toxins they produce cause the gums to become infected, swollen, and tender.
Injury to the gums from any cause, including overly vigorous brushing or flossing of the teeth, can cause gingivitis.
Misaligned teeth, rough edges of fillings, and ill-fitting or unclean mouth appliances (such as braces, dentures, bridges, and crowns) can irritate the gums and increase the risk of gingivitis.
Medications such as phenytoin and birth control pills, and heavy metals such as lead and bismuth are also associated with gingivitis.
Many people have gingivitis to a varying degree. It usually develops during puberty or early adulthood due to hormonal changes and may persist or recur frequently, depending on the health of your teeth and gums.
"Do you frequently have bad breath?" If so, you may need more than just a mint, as persistent bad breath is one of several signs that gum disease may be present.
This question, along with many others, is part of CIGNA Dental's new online Periodontal Disease Risk Assessment Tool, which helps people assess their risk for gum (periodontal) disease. Bleeding gums or loose teeth can also be signs that gum disease is present - as it progresses, teeth may loosen due to loss of the supporting bone that holds them in place.
Available in English and Spanish, this new online quiz asks individuals a series of questions and then gives a score that forecasts that person's risk for having gum disease. Results can be printed and then shared with their dentist at the next visit.
More than one in three people over age 30, or 35.7 million Americans, have periodontitis.1 This chronic bacterial infection affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth. If gum disease progresses too far, an individual can potentially lose his or her teeth. On top of that, mounting research has linked gum disease to complications associated with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pre-term birth, and other health issues.
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