Gingivitis diagnosis and treatment

If your gums bleed when you brush your teeth, then there is a chance that you may have gingivitis - a mild form of gum disease caused by plaque buildup on your teeth. If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into a more severe condition called periodontitis which could lead to major gum deterioration and tooth loss. As such, if you notice bleeding or soreness, it’s best to act right away to reverse these early signs of gum disease.  

Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease, and its effects are reversible. This condition is usually painless, and other than a little bleeding when you brush, you may not know that you have it. For that reason, it’s crucial to maintain a good dental routine of brushing and flossing and schedule regular dental checkups.  

How is gingivitis diagnosed? 1 

If you notice some bleeding when you brush, or your gums feel tender or start to look a little puffy, then you should improve your daily brushing and flossing and call your dentist to schedule a checkup. Dentists usually diagnose gingivitis or other gum problems based on: 

  • Review of your dental and medical history including conditions that may contribute to your symptoms
  • Examination of your teeth, gums, mouth and tongue for signs of plaque and inflammation
  • Dental X-rays are used to check for any bone loss in areas where your dentist sees deeper pockets
  • Measurement of the pocket depth between your gums and teeth

This is done by a dentist or hygienist who inserts a dental probe alongside your teeth beneath your gum line, usually at different sites throughout your mouth. In healthy areas of the gum, the pocket depth is usually between 1 and 3 millimeters (mm). Pockets deeper than 4 mm may indicate gum disease more severe than just gingivitis.  

Other tests are conducted as needed to check for underlying health conditions. If your gum disease is found to be advanced, then your dentist may refer you to a type of dentist that specializes in diagnosing and treating gum diseases known as a periodontist.  

How is gingivitis treated? 2  

Prompt treatment usually reverses symptoms of gingivitis and prevents its progression to advanced gum disease and tooth loss. Treatment starts with excellent at-home oral care, including thorough brushing twice a day and regular flossing. Be sure to control bad habits that are risk factors for gum disease, like smoking and a diet high in sugary foods and drinks, and starchy, refined carbohydrates that promote plaque formation. Even with good oral hygiene, you still may need professional help. Professional gingivitis treatments include:  

Professional dental cleaning: Your hygienist, dentist, or periodontist will thoroughly clean your teeth and remove all traces of plaque, tartar, stains, and bacteria from your tooth surfaces and the area just beneath your gums. 

Dental restoration, if necessary: Misaligned teeth, poorly fitting crowns, or other dental restorations may irritate your gums and make it difficult to remove plaque during your daily dental routine. If dental restorations contribute to your gingivitis, then your dentist may recommend fixing these problems.  

Ongoing oral hygiene routine: Gingivitis typically clears up after a thorough professional cleaning as long as you continue good oral hygiene at home. To help prevent gingivitis from coming back, your dentist will help you plan an effective at-home program. They will also advise you about any additional gingivitis risk factors you may have like smoking, poor diet, stress, medications, dry mouth, medical conditions, or life conditions such as puberty, pregnancy, and menses that may make you more susceptible to developing gingivitis.     

Final thoughts  

Prompt diagnosis and treatment of gingivitis can prevent permanent damage to your teeth and gums. It is highly recommended that you regularly see a dentist for professional cleanings and checkups, not just when you are experiencing symptoms, as treating, and preventing gingivitis is all about regularly eliminating as much plaque from your teeth and gums as possible.  

Gingivitis is easy to prevent, but if it does develop, then the best way to treat gingivitis is to catch and treat it early. If you are experiencing symptoms, it is recommended to make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Professional cleaning by your hygienist or dentist will remove any plaque, tartar, and staining to reverse the signs of gingivitis, prevent gum disease from progressing and keep you on the road to a lifetime of good oral health.  

Sources 

1 Gingivitis: What it is, causes, diagnosis. (n.d.). from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10950-gingivitis-and-periodontal-disease-gum-disease 

2 Gingivitis. (2017, August 04). from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/gingivitis/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20354459