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How Does a Dentist Treat Gingivitis?

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A man walking in a park suffering from oral pain holds his left cheek with his left hand.

Gingivitis is a common early form of gum disease. It’s usually caused by plaque buildup, and if left untreated, it can lead to a more severe gum disease called periodontitis. Gingivitis can develop slowly and go unnoticed until it becomes unbearable.

If you’ve been diagnosed with gingivitis, treatment is crucial. Gum disease can lead to complications. Your dentist can remove built-up plaque with a professional cleaning that includes scaling and root planing to clean deeper beneath your gums and smooth the surfaces to prevent bacteria buildup.

What Is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis occurs when plaque and bacteria build up on teeth and gums, leading to inflammation. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria, food particles, and saliva. When not removed by brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar and irritate the gums. 

Signs of gingivitis include:

  • Gums that bleed when brushing or flossing
  • Red gums around teeth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • A metallic taste
  • A change in the gum’s colour
  • Puffy, shiny, or sore gums
  • Sensitive teeth without any trigger

If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease requiring more work to treat.

What Causes Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is your body’s response to excess plaque and tartar on your teeth. Effective oral hygiene that includes regular brushing, flossing, and professional dental cleanings can help prevent gingivitis, but certain medical conditions, hormonal changes, and genetic predispositions can also contribute to its development. 

Other factors that can cause gingivitis include:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Hormonal changes, such as when pregnant
  • Crooked teeth that are difficult to clean
  • Family history of gum disease
  • Diabetes

Some medications can also reduce the amount of saliva you produce. Saliva helps your mouth wash away harmful bacteria, so talk to your doctor about your medication and be aware if you’re dealing with dry mouth.

Preventing Gingivitis at Home

Gingivitis can cause permanent damage to the teeth and gums if not treated properly. But if caught early, it can be managed and reversed by following a strict dental hygiene routine and receiving professional cleanings from your dentist.

Proper oral hygiene means keeping up with your brushing and flossing. Brush your teeth twice daily for 2 minutes each time and floss every day. An antiseptic mouthwash can also help remove the bacteria that cause gingivitis and keep your mouth fresh.

A healthy, balanced diet can also help. Avoid sugary and sticky foods and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables containing essential vitamins. Altogether, these can help to keep your teeth and gums strong and healthy.

In some cases, gum disease can’t be reversed by at-home remedies. Tartar, for example, is too tough for regular brushing, so you’ll need your dentist’s help to remove it.

Treating Gingivitis with Your Dentist

The first step in managing gingivitis is getting regular dental checkups and professional cleanings. During these visits, your dentist or dental hygienist uses specialized tools to remove plaque and tartar buildup from your teeth, especially in areas that are hard to reach at home.

They can also examine your gums for signs of inflammation, bleeding, or recession. If they notice symptoms of gingivitis, they may recommend further treatment, such as scaling and root planing.

Scaling & Root Planing

Scaling and root planing, also known as deep cleaning, involves removing plaque and tartar buildup from the teeth and roots beneath the gum line to eliminate the bacteria that cause inflammation and damage to the gums and bone.

Scaling and root planing can be performed under local anesthesia or with sedation dentistry to help you stay comfortable during the procedure. Your dentist or hygienist uses special instruments to scrape and smooth the root surfaces of the teeth to prevent bacteria from sticking.

You should schedule follow-up visits with your dentist to monitor your progress and assess the effectiveness of the treatment.

A woman in a dental clinic shaking hands with her female dentist.

How Often Should I See the Dentist?

According to the Canadian Dental Association (CDA), you should see your dentist every 6 months. But everyone is different, so it really depends on your oral health and the risk of dental problems.

If you have a higher risk of dental problems, such as gum disease, cavities, or a weak immune system, your dentist might recommend more frequent visits. They may also consider your age, lifestyle, and medical history to determine your personalized preventive care plan.

For example, older adults and those with diabetes often need more frequent checkups because they are more likely to develop oral health problems.

Don’t Wait on Gingivitis

In the early stage, gingivitis is almost always reversible with proper care and attention. Our friendly team at Riverwalk Dental can guide you with recommendations for managing gingivitis.Your oral health is our priority. Book your cleaning, and let’s stop gingivitis in its tracks.

Written by Dr. Brandon Scott

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