Gingivitis Beyond the 30-Second Spots

By Montefiore Medical Center
November 15, 2016

Probably more people would show recognition of the word “gingivitis” than could name more than one Supreme Court justice. While disturbing, that fact shows the prominence of TV advertising.

Why? Because we all know gingivitis from a single source — Listerine TV ads.

But what do you really know about it, other than the useless promise that Listerine kills “99% of the germs that cause gingivitis?”

At Montefiore, since part of our mission is education, here’s your primer on the dental condition known as gingivitis and what we, and you, can do about it.

What is gingivitis?

From an ad writer’s standpoint, gingivitis is a great word. It sounds ominous, scary. But reality, as in much of advertising, is far different.

Gingivitis simply means “gum inflammation.” Plaque is the main irritant of the gums. Plaque is the film that forms on the teeth throughout the day consisting of bacteria, bacterial waste products, food residue, and saliva. Plaque is an ongoing battle. When you brush and floss you remove the plaque. Then it starts to rebuild, only to be removed again when you brush. But if you neglect your oral hygiene the plaque can develop beneath the gumline, where it is very irritating to your gums. If allowed to stay there, the plaque hardens into tartar, causing more persistent irritation. While the term “irritation” sounds innocent enough, if this irritation is allowed to continue and progress, it leads to gum disease, clinically known as periodontitis.

What are signs of gingivitis?

Signs of gum irritation, gingivitis, are easy to spot. Your gums should be pink all over, about the color of a piece of Double Bubble chewing gum. Any bright red patches show irritation. Your gums should also lie flat against the teeth; inflamed gums tend to recede and pull away from the teeth. Your gums will also be prone to bleeding and this shouldn’t normally happen if you’re using a soft toothbrush. Bleeding is a sign of inflammation. And finally, as in the commercials, your breath will reek. The commercials get this part right — your bad breath is caused by bacteria that is being left to its own devices by your poor oral hygiene.

Gingivitis treatments

Good home hygiene is the first line of defense in keeping your gums healthy. If you remove the plaque, it can’t build up and none of this bad stuff happens.

Beyond that, our team at Montefiore treats gingivitis with regular prophylactic cleaning and, if necessary, gum scaling and root planing. In gum scaling, tartar that has built up under the gumline is scraped off with dental tools. It removes plaque and tartar from around and below the gumline. In root planing, the root surfaces below the gumline are scraped and smoothed, making it easier for the gum tissue to firmly reattach to the roots.

Now that you’re a gingivitis expert, beyond the TV spots, are your gums showing any of the signs listed above? If so, it’s time to come see us at Montefiore. Call 888-700-6623 for an appointment.

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