What is gingivitis? Causes, symptoms & treatment options

Hygiene begins with oral health – what you eat, how you eat and how you take care of the mouth, teeth and gums. Bad breath and bleeding gums show the extent of oral hygiene. You may not feel the bad breath, but if you see the person talking to you flinch or take a step back, you should realize it is because of bad breath. You too will react the same way if the person who you are talking to has bad breath. However, bad breath also occurs after eating spicy and strong foods. In any condition, it is imperative to keep the mouth clean and fresh.

Gums, teeth, tongue and palate are all parts of the mouth. Teeth do not bleed. Neither do the tongue and the palate. When you see blood while you are brushing your teeth, it is a sign of infection/inflammation of the gums.

What is gingivitis?

Gums are the tissue and lining which are attached to the bone and surround the teeth to hold them together. The anatomical name is gingiva. We hear the word gingivitis so often. Gingivitis is basically infection in the gums. It is as important to keep the gums clean and healthy as it is to keep the teeth because gums are infected first and then progress to the teeth. Normal gums are pink and spongy. Infections will cause a change in the color and consistency in the gum.

Gum bleeding is a common occurrence and is not a serious issue. Gingivitis or bleeding gums is an early-stage of gum disease. A person may notice some blood after flossing or brushing their teeth, or biting into an apple which can irritate sensitive gums during the process. The most common reason a person’s gums bleed is because of plaque or tartar build up.

Causes of gingivitis

Bacterial plaque is the main cause of gingivitis. It destroys the gingiva and if not treated in time, it may cause periodontitis (advanced gum disease) which is more difficult to treat. Auto-immune diseases like Diabetes or Aids can also be a cause of gingivitis

Symptoms of gingivitis

Red, swollen tender or painful gums are first signs of infection and infected gums can bleed easily especially during flossing/brushing, biting into crisp fruits or foods. It is important to address gingivitis at the earliest otherwise it may lead to further problems.

Bleeding gums are caused by accumulation of plaque. Plaque is a sticky film coating the teeth which contains germs. These germs attack healthy tissue around teeth and cause the gums to get inflamed. Inflammation of gums may cause bleeding when brushing or flossing. This is called gingivitis and is the first stage of gum disease.

Complications of Gingivitis

  • Recurrent or untreated gingivitis gives rise to periodontitis commonly known as advanced gum disease. This may cause a loss of bone and tissue making teeth mobile or loose. Mobility of a tooth often affects adjoining teeth.
  • Infection or abscess in jawbone: Immediate dental intervention is necessary for an abscess. An abscess is a collection of pus. Dentists may have to drain the abscess and will probably prescribe antibiotics. In severe cases, the tooth may need to be extracted or surgically stop the infection from spreading further into the bones.
  • Ulcers in the gum: They are also known as cankers. Eating acidic foods can aggravate such sores. Ulcers can go away in 2-3 weeks.
  • Swollen lymph nodes: These are caused by infections and inflammations such as gingivitis. However, one should consult a dentist immediately if one notices swollen lymph nodes as they can be an indicator of a deeper issue.
  • Can sometimes cause premature birth or low birth weight: Viral or bacterial infections cause all kinds of complications including low birth weight or premature delivery in cases of pregnant women.
  • Oral infections: Viral and bacterial infections are known to cause dementia and heart attacks.


Bleeding gums and gingivitis treatment

The best treatment for inflamed gums is plaque removal. This is possible by brushing teeth and gargling every time a person eats. It is not practical to brush 3-4 times a day. So, first thing in the morning and the last thing at night are the ideal times to brush thoroughly. It is a good habit to inculcate in children from an early age. Flossing is a very easy technique and thoroughly cleans between teeth.

Brushing and flossing are not enough to clear plaque build-up. Rinsing the mouth with an antibacterial mouthwash is needed as a disinfectant can remove plaque, promote gum health, and stop gum bleeding.
Gums could also bleed because of overzealous brushing. An extra-soft or soft-bristled toothbrush will be gentler on the gum. If gums bleed regularly or are a cause of worry you, make consult with a dentist or physician.
The most thorough way to clean the teeth of plaque is to get them cleaned by a dentist. Consistency and thorough oral hygiene habits like brushing and flossing, along with professional dental cleanings will keep most infections and inflammations away.