Woman at Dentist touching cheek gingivitis

Gingivitis - Causes, Symptoms and Effective Treatment

We all know how important it is to floss and brush our teeth and that we need to go to the dentist twice a year. However, 30 to 40 million people in the United States alone do not go to the dentist regularly because they're either afraid to go or feel it won't be affordable for them. Roughly the same number of individuals forgo routine at-home dental care, assuming that it doesn't hurt to skip brushing for one or two days at a time or that flossing isn't worth the effort.

Unfortunately, poor oral hygiene and avoiding the dentist can result in a condition known as gingivitis, which is an early sign of perio disease. What are the signs and symptoms of gingivitis, what does it cause, and how can you easily make use of gingivitis treatment at home?

Definition of Gingivitis and Periodontitis

Gingivitis is the inflammation of a person's gums. It causes your gums to look red and swollen, and you might notice that they bleed when you brush them. Gum disease, which is professionally referred to as periodontitis, occurs if gingivitis is left untreated.

The inflammation and underlying bacteria that is causing gingivitis is never remedied, so the inflammation gets to the point where it goes underneath the gum line and affects not only the roots of the teeth but the jaw bone entirely. Perio disease is also an underlying factor for heart disease, so it's a pretty serious condition that needs to be treated effectively.

Signs and Symptoms

The first sign of gingivitis is redness and swelling of the gums. Oftentimes, the gums around your teeth might be tender or there might feel like there is a pressure because the swelling is pushing against the teeth. For most people with gingivitis, their gums will bleed when they brush and floss. This is a sure sign that there is an inflammation of the gums and that you need to seek proper gingivitis treatment.

For perio disease, the redness and swelling will be more severe and even painful. If you go to the dentist, they will do something known as perio charting. They use a small pick with numbers on it and they will insert this pick in the gum line of each tooth. If the number goes above four, it is a sign that you have gingivitis, and the higher the number, the more likely you have periodontal disease.

What Causes Gingivitis?

Fortunately, gingivitis is entirely reversible and preventable. However, one of the most common causes for both gingivitis and periodontitis is poor oral hygiene. Even if you're brushing twice a day and think you're doing a great job, you're still missing out on two of the most important parts of oral care: flossing and rinsing with mouthwash.

If your dentist has told you that you have gingivitis, they might try to tell you that you need a special rinse and professional treatment to get it to go away, but you can easily make use of gingivitis treatment at home without the hefty dental bill involved.

How You Can Prevent It

Preventing gingivitis with mouthwash

  • Brushing with an Electric Toothbrush
    Electric toothbrushes are more effective at cleaning your teeth than manual brushes. They use supersonic vibrations to push bubbles and toothpaste between the teeth for a superior clean. Many dental offices will recommend that patients use a power toothbrush as a form of gingivitis treatment.
  • Flossing
    Whether you use string floss, interdental brushes or a water flossing machine, you absolutely must get into the habit of flossing once a day. Most cases of gingivitis are caused because the patient is not flossing their teeth. This allows the dirt, food, and bacteria to linger for days and even weeks at a time between the person's teeth, which eventually cause inflammation and redness.
  • Mouthwash
    Most mouthwashes on the market contain either alcohol or an ingredient known as cetylpyridinium chloride that is an antiseptic. Many types of mouthwash claim that they are an effective gingivitis treatment, but they need to be used each time you brush to be effective. Rinse with the mouthwash for at least 30 seconds and spit out. Never reuse mouthwash because you'll be introducing a plethora of bacteria back into your mouth.
  • Avoid a Fatty and Sugary Diet
    We all enjoy a sugary treat from time to time, but did you realize that all of that sugar is settling into the gum line of your mouth and could be the root cause of your gingivitis? Bacteria found in the mouth thrive on acidic foods like candies, soda pops, and bread. As the bacteria eat this food, they defecate, which results in inflammation, bleeding, tenderness and foul breath.
  • Routine Trips to the Dentist
    As the bacteria and plaque stay between your teeth, it hardens into a white substance known as calculus. Calculus is full of germs and is a prime hiding area for bacteria because it's difficult to clean behind and around.

    If you haven't been to the dentist in awhile, look in a mirror at your teeth, especially inside behind the upper and lower teeth and notice if you see thick, white and hardened calculus there. Calculus can only be removed by a dental hygienist because it is too hard to brush or floss away. So, make appointments regularly to get your teeth cleaned.

Professional Treatment and Remedies at Home

Tee Trea Oil as treatment for gingivitis

If you go to the dentist and are told that you have gingivitis, they might offer a special gingivitis treatment that involves an oral rinse, special scraping and gingivitis antibiotics. While people who have heavy buildup should go for a root planing and scaling, which is a more advanced dental cleaning, mild cases of gingivitis can easily benefit from a routine cleaning without the fancy gingivitis treatments.

In fact, most cases of gingivitis clear up within two weeks when you practice proper oral hygiene. So, save your time and your wallet and just go to the dentist for a routine cleaning. You can do the rest of the gingivitis treatment from your own home.

A natural cure for gingivitis is a salt water rinse

Salt water is incredibly cleansing and totally transforms the pH level of your mouth, making it impossible for bacteria to thrive and reproduce. Mix a teaspoon of sea salt into a cup of warm water and rinse with it for about a minute. Do this two or three times a day for several weeks and you'll notice a significant improvement in how red and irritated your gums are.

Tea tree oil is an incredibly beneficial treatment for gingivitis

Because it can be quite potent, you're going to want to dilute the oil rather than apply it directly to your gums. Add about two drops of the oil to a cup of warm water and rinse for roughly one minute. Make sure that you spit out the mixture and repeat this a few times a day. Tea tree oil has natural antibacterial properties and is often used to get rid of the bacteria that causes acne on the skin, so it makes sense that it'd work the same in your mouth.

Coconut oil pulling is an effective treatment that can be done at home

Take about a tablespoon of organic cold-pressed coconut oil and let it melt on your tongue. Swish the oil around your mouth for a few minutes and spit out into a cup rather than down the drain. Coconut oil hardens when it reaches room temperature and can easily clog up your drains. Coconut oil is a natural antimicrobial and is ideal for reducing and preventing cases of gingivitis.

Ways to Keep Your Gums Healthy

The best way for you to keep your gums healthy is to practice good oral hygiene, limit unhealthy and sugary foods from your diet and to steer clear of tobacco products. You need to make it a habit to visit your dentist twice a year for cleanings and checkups, especially if you've had cases of gingivitis in the past.

Keep in mind that having gingivitis isn't the end of the world. In fact, it is one of the easiest dental ailments to both treat and prevent. If your dentist has told you that you have gingivitis, instead of feeling down about your smile, get excited about starting a new and healthier oral care routine. Also, keep in mind that if left untreated, gingivitis can lead to perio disease, which is harder to treat and could eventually lead to both tooth and bone loss. Now is the time to use effective remedies to reduce, eliminate and prevent gingivitis from being a recurring problem in your life.