Lexington DentistThe next time you brush your teeth, try this simple experiment – smile wide enough so that you can see your gums and check to see if they look red and rather swollen? Now try touching them. Are the tender to touch? Now brush your teeth but pay attention to what you spit right after. Can you see streaks of red amidst all the white foam? If you’ve answered yes to all these questions, then chances are that you might have gingivitis. In the United States alone, dentists are estimating that around 75 percent of adults will go through a case of gum disease at least once in their lives. Of that number 75 percent will develop gingivitis while 25 percent will contract the more serious form of gum disease – periodontitis.

What causes gingivitis?

In a nutshell, gingivitis is a result of poor dental hygiene. When you often miss brushing your teeth, you will experience an increase in the build-up of plaque inside your mouth. Plaque is that white substance which forms on the surfaces of your teeth and is often sticky and slimy. Plaque forms after you eat because of the increase in food debris and the increased proliferation of bacteria which also reside in the matrix.

While plaque can easily be removed by routine tooth brushing, flossing and rinsing with mouthwash, it hardens into tartar. The mineralized form of plaque, tartar is very difficult to remove and can only be scaled off by the dentist or a hygienist. Tartar is toxic to gums and can cause an inflammatory reaction which leads to the appearance of red, swollen gums. These tender gums are also prone to bleeding even with simple probing of the tissues through brushing or flossing.

What are the risk factors for gingivitis?

While gingivitis can affect just about anyone, some individuals are more prone to the condition than others. Here are some of the risk factors that put a person at increased susceptibility to gingivitis:

Bacteria. There are certain bacterial strains which reside inside our mouth, 400 possible strains to be exact. However, only 15 strains are known to cause severe gum disease.

Genes. People with a certain genetic makeup are prone to severe gum disease as compared to individuals who lack that certain gene.

Diabetes. People who suffer from diabetes have increase blood glucose, which is what bacteria feed on. For this reason, diabetics are more prone to gingivitis because oral bacteria have more to utilize from them.

Smoking. Individuals who smoke are 75 percent more susceptible to gum disease compared to their non-smoking counterparts.

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