Health Topics

Healthy Living

January 2012
Do You Have Gingivitis?
Dr Neeraj Verma
Are you one of those people who start and end the day by brushing your teeth? Do you brush often or use a mouthwash and floss your teeth? The bad news is that despite all this you can still get gingivitis.

In fact, if you brush vigorously and even floss improperly, you may be causing more harm than good. This can occasionally irritate the gums and even cause minute cuts, which are then open to bacteria entering the gums. Plus, it is very difficult to get rid of food debris,
bacteria and even mucus, completely. And when these collect, they form plaque, which usually settles down at the base where the teeth meet the gums. This then becomes harder and turns into tartar or calculus.

What is Gingivitis?
If you ever have some blood on your toothbrush or you spit out blood, you may be suffering from gingivitis. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums that may be swollen and even bleed. They may be painful to touch and look shiny because of pus formation internally. You may have receding gums and then the teeth look bigger and more elongated. You may have bad breath or mouth sores.

In the early stages, gingivitis can be treated, but if it is not, it can lead to advanced periodontal disease (periodontitis), which can be mild or severe (such as acute necrotising
ulcerative gingivitis).

Preventing Gingivitis
  • If you practise good oral care, which means brushing and flossing the correct way and for the right amount of time, you can avoid gingivitis. Most people learn to brush in a particular way when they are infants and their brushing habits don’t change.
  • However, misaligned teeth and gaps between teeth, if not attended to, increase the incidence of gingivitis. This, coupled with improper brushing, increases the risk of
  • If you are not sure whether you are brushing properly or not, learn from a dentist or look it up on the Internet – you will find correct brushing techniques.
  • While proper brushing and flossing does reduce the incidence of plaque, it may be difficult to get rid of plaque completely. So you need to go to your dentist regularly and get a clean-up of your teeth done. After your first visit, you can find out from
    your dentist how often you need to go, which is usually once or twice a year, depending on the condition of your teeth.
Treatment for Gingivitis
Usually treatment for gingivitis is simple – it comprises a course of antibiotics. If you do have repeated attacks, you need to find out the underlying causes of the disease. And if you have misaligned teeth or gaps, it is never too late to get them fixed.

Contributing factors of Gingivitis
There are some diseases that also make you more prone to attacks of gingivitis. Among the contributing factors of gingivitis are:
  • Diabetes
  • Addison’s disease
  • Hormonal changes
  • HIV
  • Pregnancy
  • Steroid use
  • Psychotropic drug usage
  • Smoking
  • Paan and/or tobacco chewing
  • Anti-seizure medications
  • Hypertension medications
  • Immunosuppressant therapy
  • Leukemia
  • Contraceptive pills
  • Eating too much of sticky sweet confections
  • Ill-fitting dentures
If you are suffering from any disease or taking any medications that increase the likelihood of gingivitis, you need to be more careful and take preventive measures before you get the infection. Obviously, if you are on some necessary medication, you cannot avoid taking it to stop getting gum problems, but you should nip the problem in the bud by practising good oral hygiene.

Your dentist can advise you on the preventive measures you can take – for example apart from brushing, flossing, mouthwash, there are also liquids and gels which you can massage on your gums for healthier gums.

Problems associated with Gingivitis
  • Gum abscesses
  • Teeth falling off
  • Bone and tissue damage around
    the teeth
  • Studies have found that there is a possible connection between recurring eriodontitis and heart disease, stroke and even pancreatic cancer, though the cause of the connection is not clear.
All the more reason to get treated for gingivitis and practise good oral hygiene.

Tough bites!
If you are a parent struggling with the dental hygiene of youngsters, here are some stress-buster lines and thoughts we found for you.
  • You must never share your toothbrush with anyone, especially your dog!
  • What we munch on, the germs in our mouths lunch on.
  • Gums should not bleed upon brushing. This is an indication of a gum infection. Sore bleeding gums and pink in the sink are not normal.
  • We have 4 different types of teeth with four different functions: biting, tearing, crushing, grinding.
  • Eat plenty of detergent foods to keep your teeth clean - apples, carrots, celery and other raw vegetables and fruits.
  • Toothpicks have been made of a variety of products besides wood. In ancient times, people used picks made of bone, quills, silver or gold.
  • A kiss on the forehead is a comforting kiss to receive. It feels accepting and nurturing, and it doesn’t spread germs.
  • The wisdom teeth or 3rd molars develop in the average person between the ages of 17 and 21 and have nothing to do with how smart we are.

Dr.Neeraj Verma is Senior Consultant Dental Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals,New Delhi

  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
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