Poor oral hygiene that results in plaque buildup on teeth is often the main contributing factor for a gum infection. The following write-up provides information on the symptoms of a gum infection.
The term ‘gingiva’ refers to the layer of soft tissue that covers the surface of alveolar bone, which surrounds the roots of teeth. Commonly referred to as gums, the gingiva is a part of the oral mucosa. The term ‘gingivitis’ refers to inflammation of the gums.
More often than not, gingivitis is caused due to plaque buildup. Plaque refers to a sticky biofilm that forms on the surface of teeth when bacteria and other microbes act on the salivary proteins and carbohydrates from the food debris.
Bacteria act on carbohydrates to produce acid, which may erode the tooth enamel. Plaque can also affect the gums, causing them to swell and bleed.
If left untreated, gingivitis could progress to periodontitis, which is a serious gum disease that affects the tooth roots, or the ligaments or bones that support the teeth.
Symptoms of Gingivitis
Redness, swelling, and bleeding in gums are some of the symptoms that are indicative of a gum infection. If these symptoms persist, a dentist must be consulted at the earliest. Prompt treatment can prevent gingivitis from progressing to periodontal disease. Here are some of the signs and symptoms of inflamed gums.
- Swollen gums
- Tender gums
- Bleeding while brushing or flossing
- Bluish discoloration of gums due to lack of oxygen in the blood
- Receding gums
- Bad breath
- Bad taste in mouth
Symptoms of Periodontitis
Periodontitis is a serious gum disease wherein the gums pull away from teeth, thereby leading to the formation of deep pockets. These pockets could become infected when bacteria act on food debris that may collect in these pockets. The characteristic symptoms of periodontal disease include:
- Receding gum line, causing the teeth to look longer
- Pus-filled pockets between the teeth and gums
- Gum sensitivity due to exposed tooth roots
- Plaque or tartar on and below the gum line
- Canker sores (aphthous ulcers)
- Formation of a sulcus (narrow V-shaped gap) between the teeth and gums
- Loosening of the teeth due to the damage to periodontal ligament and alveolar bone
- Change in the position or alignment of teeth that affects the bite
It is extremely essential that gingivitis is treated at the earliest, so as to prevent it from progressing to periodontal disease. So, if you experience any of the aforementioned gum infection symptoms, consult a dentist as soon as possible.
The treatment of gingivitis involves the removal of plaque or tartar. The use of antibiotics may also be recommended in order to curb the growth of bacteria. If gingivitis has progressed to periodontitis, procedures such as deep cleaning, scaling (removal of tartar) and root planing (evening out the root surface to inhibit tartar buildup) may be performed. The use of oral antibiotics and topical application of antibiotic gels or ointments may also be prescribed. In severe cases, flap surgery (reduction of the pockets between the teeth and gums), soft tissue grafts, or bone grafting may be required.
If your gums feel sore, and often bleed while brushing, you must follow certain self-care measures.
- Follow a dental care regimen. Brush your teeth twice a day and floss your teeth properly to prevent the formation of dental plaque.
- Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to prevent bleeding, and make sure that you change your toothbrush every three months.
- Since bacteria act on food debris that is lodged between teeth, use an interdental brush that can remove food particles that may get lodged in spaces between the teeth.
- Use a toothpaste that doesn’t contain sodium lauryl sulfate.
- Cut down on intake of carbohydrates or food items that are acidic.
- Quit smoking and refrain from the use of chewing tobacco.
Poor oral hygiene, trauma to the teeth while brushing or flossing, smoking, and prolonged use of tobacco are some of the common contributing factors of gum problems. Nutritional deficiencies can also put a person at an increased risk of developing gum problems. Gum infections can therefore be prevented if you make the necessary lifestyle changes. More importantly, a visit to the dentist every six months is necessary to prevent oral diseases and infections.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.