Nearly half of all adults in the U.S. suffer from periodontal disease. Checking for gingivitis at home can help catch and prevent it from progressing into periodontitis.
According to the CDC, nearly half of all adults in the U.S. suffer from periodontal disease. Gingivitis, a mild and common form of gum disease, commonly results from poor oral hygiene. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress into periodontitis, a serious form of periodontal disease that can lead to tooth loss. Knowing how to check for gingivitis at home will help you address it before it causes further serious complications.
Gingivitis Causes and Risk Factors
The bacteria found in plaque — a sticky film created when bacteria from your mouth comes into contact with starchy or sugary foods — produce acids that eat away at your enamel. When left alone, plaque can turn into tartar, cause cavities, or lead to gingivitis.
While gingivitis can affect anyone, some individuals are more prone to it. If you have a high-sugar diet or practice poor oral care habits, you’re more likely to develop gingivitis. Other risk factors include old age, smoking, tobacco usage, vitamin C deficiency, viral infections, fungal infections, hormonal changes, and conditions that decrease immunity, such as HIV/AIDS or leukemia.
How to Check for Gingivitis at Home
Don’t wait for your dentist to find signs of gingivitis during your checkup. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis and increase your risk of pneumonia, cancer, diabetes, osteoporosis, and heart disease, so it’s important to check for signs of gingivitis at home.
Symptoms of gingivitis include:
- Swollen or puffy gums: When plaque builds up on your teeth, it can spread to your gum tissue, resulting in inflammation. Your gums may feel tender or soft and appear bright red or purple.
- Receding gums: As your periodontal disease progresses, your gums may appear shorter than normal. However, it is important to note that receding gums may also be a result of genetics, diabetes, age, smoking, or tobacco usage.
- Bleeding: If your gums are bleeding, you may have gingivitis.
- Bad breath: Having bad breath that doesn’t go away with brushing, mouthwash, or mints may signify gingivitis. However, bad breath can also indicate cavities, dry mouth, or chronic conditions like liver disease, gastric reflux, or diabetes.
- Sensitive teeth: With gingivitis, your teeth may feel tingly, particularly when you’re consuming hot, cold, acidic, or sugary foods and beverages.
- Shifting teeth: If your teeth wiggle or feel loose, your gingivitis may have progressed to periodontitis.
Preventing and Treating Gingivitis at Home
Brushing each day is the best way to prevent and treat gingivitis at home. Brushing for two minutes twice a day with short, circular strokes can stop plaque from turning into tartar, also known as dental calculus. If you’re already doing this, increase your brushing and flossing frequency, or try brushing at a 45-degree angle. This will maximize your bristles’ reach and remove bacteria from the area between your teeth and your gums.
Investing in an electric toothbrush can help remove even more plaque. Similarly, using an antibacterial or antigingivitis toothpaste can fight and neutralize plaque on your teeth and around your gum line.
However, your toothbrush can’t reach everything, so it’s important to floss your teeth each day. Flossing will remove particles of food, preventing plaque from growing between your teeth.
Rinsing with antibacterial chlorhexidine, salt water, or natural mouthwash reduces plaque buildup and eases gingivitis symptoms. Oil pulling is also an effective way to reduce swelling, strengthen teeth, and relieve pain. Applying clove or turmeric gel to the affected area can alleviate gingivitis as well, thanks to their anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
Of course, as with most health measures, consider abstaining from smoking or chewing tobacco and limiting your sugar intake.
When To See a Dentist
Unfortunately, sometimes all the brushing, flossing, and antibacterial toothpaste in the world can’t remove plaque, especially if it’s hardened into tartar. A dental professional can remove more plaque for you and clean below your gum line, scrape the tartar from your teeth, and identify early signs of gingivitis. They can even prescribe antibiotic gel, enzyme suppressants, oral antibiotics, and other medications. If your gingivitis has progressed into periodontitis, they may suggest gum graft surgery or flap surgery.
For more than 30 years, Espire’s Oklahoma City location has provided the community with high-quality dental care. If you believe you have gingivitis, it’s important to see a professional. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.