Do you spit out blood with your toothpaste when you brush your teeth? Are your gums swollen and red no matter how much you brush? You may have gingivitis.
Gingivitis is inflammation of the tissue surrounding the teeth. It can be acute or chronic and is a response to bacteria on the teeth. The capillaries in the gums dilate, and lymphocytes (white blood cells) move to the area to fight the bacteria. In the early stages, the inflammation has not affected the tooth-supporting bone. As the disease progresses, the gums turn from pink to bright red and then to dark red or purple. Gingivitis may also indicate a systemic disease.
Treatment is aimed at removing the plaque and tartar that harbor the bacteria with dental instruments know as scalers or curettes. All debris must be removed below the gumline to allow for healing. This should be done by a dental professional trained in removing the tartar while not damaging the teeth.
Once the healing has begun, a regimen of brushing and flossing should be started. The gums can be “massaged” by using a soft- bristle brush at a 45-degree angle to the tooth. Flossing works best when done daily. The floss should be slid up around the neck of each tooth making a “C” and moved back and forth or up and down.
If caught early, gingivitis can usually be cured. If allowed to go on, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease involving erosion of the bone surrounding the teeth.