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Fort Dodge, Iowa 50501
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Gum Disease (Gingivitis)

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums that is usually caused by plaque. It is the earliest and most easily treated form of gum disease, as it only affects the gums, but it must be treated to avoid more serious gum disease.

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is early stage gum disease which affects only the gums and not the surrounding bone and tissue. Symptoms include gum inflammation and infection. It is a serious problem which afflicts perhaps up to 90% of adults, but it is treatable and reversible. If left untreated, it can develop into periodontitis, severe gum disease that can cause permanent tooth and jaw damage. If you have symptoms of gingivitis, make an appointment with Dr. Clay for a thorough examination and proper treatment.

What causes gingivitis?

Gingivitis is an inflammation and infection of the gums. It can be caused by trauma to the gums or by irritating rough edges of teeth or dental work, but is usually caused by plaque. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms daily on our teeth. It reacts with the food we eat to produce acids and toxins that cause tooth decay. Newly formed plaque can be removed by brushing and flossing, but plaque that is not removed hardens into tartar or calculus. This hard layer of tartar forms at and below the gumline and cannot be removed by brushing. Tartar causes decay even faster than plaque alone and irritates the gums. The resulting inflammation and infection of the gums is called gingivitis. Untreated, this condition can develop into a serious gum disease, called periodontitis.

What does gingivitis look like?

Gingivitis will appear as:

  • Red, or reddish-purple swollen, tender gums
  • Gums that bleed very easily, even with gentle brushing (blood on toothbrush even with gentle brushing of the teeth)
  • Gums that hurt only when touched
  • Gums that have a "shiny look"
  • Gums that have receded from your teeth
  • Continuous bad taste in mouth or bad breath
  • Mouth sores

How can I prevent gingivitis?

You can reduce the risk of gingivitis greatly by:

  • Brushing and flossing regularly
  • Quitting tobacco use
  • Making regular dental visits for examination and cleaning

What can Dr. Clay do about gingivitis?

Dr. Clay will give your mouth a thorough examination to see if any of your teeth or dental work has rough edges that are contributing to this problem. Either Dr. Clay or his dental hygienist will give your teeth a thorough cleaning above and below the gums. This will usually include a process called scaling, where the dental professional uses instruments to scrape the tartar off teeth below the gumline. Scaling is followed by a smoothing procedure called planing to make sure there are no rough surfaces to continue irritating the teeth. Dr. Clay can further describe the procedure and the techniques for making patients completely comfortable during the appointment.

Why is it important to treat gingivitis?

Gingivitis is the milder and very treatable form of gum disease that affects just the gums. Untreated gingivitis can develop into serious gum disease, called periodontitis, which can cause tooth loss and permanent damage to your jaw. This is preventable. If you develop the signs of gingivitis, see Dr. Clay for a thorough examination and treatment.