Gingivitis Beyond the Listerine Commercials

gum diseaseGingivitis. Everyone’s heard that term, but when most Americans can’t name a single Supreme Court judge, do you think they could really tell you what gingivitis is? In reality, people being at all familiar with the term is probably more due to the ad budget of Listerine than knowledge of dental health. But Dr. Marshall feels it’s important for her patients to know some of these dental terms like gingivitis.

So, here’s a little primer on gingivitis.

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is an ad writer’s dream because it sounds so ominous. Moving past the scary name, gingivitis is nothing more than gum inflammation. Plaque is the culprit behind gum irritation. Plaque is the film that forms on the teeth throughout the day. It consists of bacteria, bacterial waste products, food residue, and saliva, and brushing removes it. Then it starts to rebuild, only to be removed again when you brush.

This is where you play a starring role. IF you become lazy with your home hygiene plaque begins to develop below the gumline, where it is very irritating to your gums. If allowed to stay there, the plaque hardens into tartar, causing more persistent irritation. While the term “irritation” sounds innocent enough, if this irritation/gingivitis is allowed to continue and progress, it leads to gum disease, clinically known as periodontitis. And that’s not a path you want to go down!

How you know if you have gingivitis

Gum irritation is easy to spot. Healthy gums are pink all over, like a piece of Double Bubble. Any bright red patches are signs of irritation. Your gums should also lie flat against the teeth — inflamed gums tend to recede and pull away from the teeth. Your gums will also be prone to bleeding and this shouldn’t normally happen if you’re using a soft toothbrush. Bleeding is a sign of inflammation. And finally, as in the commercials, your breath will reek. You’ll need some Listerine because your bad breath won’t be caused by the food you just ate, but from the bacteria having their way because of your poor oral hygiene.

Gingivitis treatments

To keep your gums healthy and keep gingivitis at bay, it all starts with good home hygiene. Beyond that, Dr. Marshall treats gingivitis with these treatments:

  • Prophylactic cleaning
    Twice-yearly cleanings with our office are the first step. People wonder why these are recommended twice yearly. That generally is the time it takes to start forming tartar and other issues that lead to decay. During these cleanings and checkups, not only will those problem areas receive a thorough cleaning, but your hygienist and Dr. Marshall will also point them out to you for more attentive care at home.
  • Scaling
    If you have a fair amount of tartar built up under your gumline, Dr. Marshall will scrape it off with dental tools. This is called scaling, and depending how much we have to do, we may give you local anesthesia.
  • Root planing
    If Dr. Marshall opts for root planing, any tiny grooves or pits are removed from the tooth roots to make it easier for the gums to adhere and stop receding. This is done in multiple appointments with local anesthesia.

Now you know gingivitis. So the next time you see a Listerine commercial on TV, you judge the merits of their claims. In the meantime, be sure to keep your twice-yearly cleanings with us to avoid gingivitis in your mouth. Call us at 610-649-0696 to schedule an appointment.

Posted in: Gum Disease

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