It can be confusing, right?
The terms, gingivitis and gum disease are often used interchangeably, so it’s hard to know the difference. So:
What is the difference between gingivitis and gum disease?
Think of gingivitis as the first stage of gum disease. Gingivitis is the warning shot. At the gingivitis stage it’s time to take action to prevent a deterioration into gum disease. With proper care and attention at the early stages, gingivitis can be reversed.
What are the symptoms of gingivitis?
The symptoms of gingivitis are bleeding after brushing/flossing and red, swollen gums.
If you notice any blood during brushing or flossing it’s important to take it seriously. Don’t write off the blood as a result of overly vigorous brushing.
Consult your dentist and look for ways to take more care of your teeth and gums. Any improvements you make at this stage are important to reverse a descent into gum disease.
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
The symptoms of gum disease are the same as gingivitis with the addition of bad breath that never goes away, loose and wobbly teeth, and deep pockets around your teeth. Sounds horrible, right? Once you’re at this point, it is much harder to reverse, but with proper care gum disease can be managed.
What causes gingivitis?
The most common cause of gingivitis is a buildup of plaque. Plaque forms naturally on your teeth and is normally removed through regular daily brushing, flossing, and other dental care. When you don’t pay enough attention to your dental care the plaque buildup can overtake your ability to clean your teeth.
The plaque buildup on your teeth eventually turns into tartar. The plaque and the tartar together irritate the foundations of your teeth and the gumline (gingiva). Your gums become inflamed and bleed. This process gets increasingly worse and if not managed and reversed can lead to gum disease.
Ways to cure gingivitis and gum disease
No matter what stage you are at, gingivitis and gum disease can be reversed or managed and improved.
The benefits of managing your gingivitis and gum disease are huge. First, there’s the improvement you’ll experience in your mouth with improved appearance, feeling, and fresher breath. You’ll reduce the likelihood of needing radical surgery.
Additionally, you’ll improve your overall long-term health. Gum disease has been linked to serious illnesses such as heart disease and alzheimer’s disease, so a reversal or improvement of gingivitis and gum disease may help reduce your risk of developing these life-threatening illnesses.
Here are some important things you can start to do right now.
Schedule an appointment with your dentist
Get to your dentist as soon as you can and schedule a regular appointment. Firstly, you want to get a regular checkup. Secondly, you want to get a regular deep clean by your dentist. This deep clean is a way that you can reach areas around you teeth and under your gums that regular brushing and flossing just won’t catch.
Brush and floss daily, more than once!
Get into a regular routine of brushing and flossing after you’ve eaten. Especially if you’re suffering from halitosis (bad breath) you’ll notice instant improvements. Removing the scraps of food and bacteria around your teeth and gums is much easier immediately after you eat than 8 hours later once the scraps and bacteria have had time to settle.
Pay attention to your brushing style
When you brush your teeth you need to brush for at least 2 minutes. Even if you feel like you spend 2 minutes already it’s worth timing it.
You’ll probably find you spend far less than time than you’d previously thought. Which is understandable… We’re all busy, and brushing can sometimes just become an item that needs to be checked off the list as we rush to work.
Another factor to consider is the motion you use when brushing. Brushing in circles or brushing away from the gum line is best. Apply a gentle pressure when brushing so as not to stress the gums.
Avoid vigorous brushing from side to side. This vigorous side-to-side is the brushing style I naturally used as a teenager and by 16 years old I already had receding gums. Please take care!
Keep your mouth moist
Having a dry mouth can increase the risk of developing gingivitis and gum disease, so it’s important to keep your mouth as moist as possible. If you suffer from a dry mouth, these approaches might help:
- Breath through your nose as much as possible
- Chew sugar-free chewing gum
- Sip water regularly through the day
- Use a humidifier in the bedroom
- Drink a glass of water as a priority upon waking
Manage your diabetes and other conditions
When you have other illnesses they may interfere with your body’s inflammatory system and make your gum inflammation worse. It’s important, therefore to manage any conditions to ensure your gums don’t worsen as a result of those illnesses.
Try to avoid foods high in sugar, and if you do indulge remember to brush your teeth as soon as possible afterwards. Keep in mind that any processed carbohydrate will have a “sugar-like” impact on your teeth and gums (for example, white bread).
If you do a simple trial with your food you’ll be able to spot the ones that leave the most junk/residue on your teeth and gums. The less “brushed” or clean your teeth feel after eating a particular food gives you an indication that it could be more damaging (and the sooner you’ll need to brush).
Promote good bacteria
Not all bacteria in your mouth is bad. There are good bacteria responsible for breaking down food, neutralizing acid, and controlling the bad bacteria. It’s important to strike a balance between removing the bad bacteria and keeping the good. The use of commercial pastes and mouthwashes potentially remove all bacteria (both bad and good). Use natural toothpastes and natural non-alcohol mouthwashes to kill the bad bacteria and support the good bacteria.
Gingivitis and gum disease are common conditions that can be managed and improved by following the above steps.