Gingivitis: Gum Disease, Heart Disease, Danger to Fetal Health, and Source of Bad Breath

When it comes to gingivitis, gum disease is not the end of your problems. Gingivitis is linked to heart attacks, premature birth, kidney failure, uncontrolled diabetes, and invincible bad breath. Getting control over gingivitis can be essential not just to good health but even to survival. Here are eight frequently asked questions about the world’s leading dental disease.

  1. What is gingivitis?
  2. virusGingivitis is a condition of inflammation caused by an infection.

    When you have gingivitis, bacteria don’t destroy your gums. Your immune system, trying to destroy bacteria, destroys your gums. Pink, healthy gums become pale and bloated and then begin to bleed, as the immune system’s attack on plaque destroys the gums, loosens the teeth, and provides an entry path for bacteria to travel to the rest of the body.

  3. Is gingivitis contagious?
  4. There are gum infections that are contagious, such as trench mouth, which you can get from sharing a toothbrush, and black gum, which is picked up from tiny particles of manure in the air in settings near farm animals. But since gingivitis is an immune reaction to an infection, strictly speaking, it’s not contagious. However, the tissue damage caused by gingivitis makes it easy for you to contract other infections.

  5. What is chronic gingivitis?
  6. Chronic conditions affect the body for weeks, months, years, or even longer. Chronic gingivitis can inflame the gums for years-until the teeth finally fall out. Acute, or short-term gingivitis, can be a side effect of blood thinning medications, medications for seizure disorder, gold therapy for ankylosing spondilytis, birth control pills, and many other medications, or it can result from exposure to toxic levels of arsenic, bismuth (including the bismuth in Pepto-Bismol), mercury, methyl violet, nickel, lead, thallium (used in CAT scans), zinc, and topical antiseptics used during dental work. When the cause of acute gingivitis is removed, however, the gums heal.

  7. What does gingivitis do?
  8. If enough gum tissue is destroyed, teeth loosen and fall out. Gingivitis also complicates a number of other health conditions.

  9. Which health conditions are made worse by gingivitis?
  10. If you have this form of gum disease, you are more likely to have a heart attack, or an interruption of blood supply to the brain resulting in a stroke. Diabetics who have gingivitis have difficulty controlling their blood sugars. Women who have gingivitis have more complications with vaginal yeast infections, and pregnant women who have gingivitis are more likely to deliver their babies prematurely.

  11. What are the types of gingivitis?
  12. Sometimes gingivitis is caused just by plaque building up on teeth, separating the teeth from the gum. This process can be complicated by any of the medications mentioned above, by immune deficiency conditions such as HIV or the immune deficiency caused by chemotherapy, or by malnutrition, particularly not getting enough bioflavonoids from fruits and vegetables. Gingivitis infections can be caused by bacteria, fungi, or viruses, or they can be set off by dentures, braces, or tooth implants.

  13. What can I do to treat gingivitis?
  14. woman-dentistBy the time you notice bleeding gums, you need to see a dentist. You may also be referred to an endodontist if the root canal is involved.

  15. What can I do to prevent gingivitis?
  16. By far the most important thing to do is to brush your teeth after every meal, especially after you eat a sticky dessert. Flossing helps, but only if you do it the right way. Don’t press the floss into your gums by moving the string up and down between your teeth. Move the floss left to right around your teeth to loosen food particles without hurting your gums.

It’s also essential to see your doctor every six months for a cleaning, or every three months if you have diabetes. Keeping the plaque from building up on your teeth will stop gingivitis before it starts.