How to reverse gingivitis?

Gingivitis is one of the most common diseases in the world. According to the CDC (Centers of DIsease Control and Prevention) , 47.2% of adults age 30 or older have some form of gum disease.

The early stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis. It is limited to the gum. But if left untreated, it can progress deeper to affect the bone.
The condition in which the bone is affected is called periodontitis. It is irreversible and known as the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.
In this article, we will learn more about gingivitis and how to reverse it.

What is gingivitis?

periodontal tissues

The tooth is surrounded by different tissues that constitute the periodontium. These are the gum, bone, ligament and cementum.

Gingivitis is the stage where only the outermost layer of the periodontium is affected (the gum tissue).

The good news is that as long as there is no receding, the gum can repair itself. The damage caused by gingivitis can be reversed by taking some oral hygiene measures and actions.

If gingivitis is left untreated, it can reach the deeper tissues: ligaments, cementum, and bone, leading to periodontitis. Unlike the gums, deep periodontal tissue cannot repair itself perfectly when damaged. The destruction of these tissues is therefore irreversible.
The only solution is to stop the disease and promote the regeneration of destroyed tissue with or without surgical techniques.

At an advanced stage of gum disease, the tooth will no longer be supported by the bone, resulting in mobility or even tooth loss.

Gingivitis must therefore be diagnosed and treated earlier to avoid severe complications.
Before progressing further, gingivitis goes through several stages. Among them:

  • 1. Healthy gums: A healthy gum is pink, firm to the touch, not swollen, does not bleed when brushing teeth or eating, and has a stippling texture (like an orange peel).
  • 2. Early gingivitis: After a moderate accumulation of plaque (between 8 and 14 days), the appearance of the gums begins to change. It will turn red and become slightly swollen. You may also notice bleeding when brushing or eating.
  • 3. Advanced gingivitis: This stage occurs when plaque accumulation has increased. Signs of inflammation will worsen. The gums will also tend to bleed spontaneously.

How to diagnose gingivitis?

To diagnose gingivitis, your dentist will:

Do a visual test: He will look for signs of inflammation, including redness, swelling, and bleeding.

Do a periodontal probing: Using an instrument, your dentist will assess the space between your gum and teeth. This allows checking the presence of bleeding and periodontal pockets that are only found in periodontitis.

Ask questions: He will also ask you questions about your oral hygiene habits, health status, and any pain or discomfort you are experiencing.

May do an x-ray examination To check the condition of your jawbone - and make sure it's not periodontitis.

reversible vs irreversible gingivitis

How to reverse gingivitis and prevent periodontitis?

As soon as you notice the first signs of gingivitis (bleeding, swelling, redness, or gum sensitivity), make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. As previously mentioned, gingivitis is reversible if treated early.

The first step of treatment is to eliminate the root cause of the problem. At this stage, no surgery is needed. Your dentist will perform a dental scaling to remove tartar, known as the main cause of gingivitis. He will also give you some oral hygiene instructions. He may suggest additional oral hygiene tools such as interdental cleaners and antimicrobial mouthwashes.

He may take an x-ray of your jaw to check your bone condition and ensure that you do not have periodontitis.
Measures to reverse gingivitis and prevent periodontitis include:

  • Brush your teeth two times a day for at least 3 minutes with a good brushing technique and a soft-bristle toothbrush to avoid hurting your gum. Brushing helps remove up to 70% of plaque.
  • Floss your teeth once a day: Flossing helps to eliminate 30% of the remaining plaque between your teeth. You can also use an interdental brush if your teeth are not too tight. Oral irrigators can also be effective. A study has shown that oral irrigators may reduce gum inflammation.
  • Learn about antibacterial treatments. If you're especially vulnerable to gum disease — for example, because of a medical condition — your dentist may recommend special antibacterial mouth rinses or other treatments to help cut down on harmful bacteria in your mouth.
  • Visit your dentist at least once a year for professional cleaning, even if you do not have gum disease.
  • Stop smoking: Smoking is a risk factor for gum disease. Quitting smoking will improve your periodontal health.
  • Eat a healthy and balanced diet: Make sure you get the daily essential nutrients, especially vitamin C, vitamin D, B-complex vitamins, iron, and zinc. Studies have shown that a nutritional deficiency can affect your mouth condition.
  • Take care of yourself: Some diseases and conditions affect your gums, such as diabetes, viral infections, and hormonal imbalance.

Last but not least, don't hesitate to talk to your doctor about your oral health conditions because your mouth can be a reflection of your overall health.
In the same way, gum disease can interact with certain systemic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and joint disease.

How do I know if my gums have healed?

After receiving treatment and oral hygiene advice, you may be wondering how long it will take to reverse gingivitis and how to tell if my gums are healed?

Fortunately, in the stage of gingivitis, the healing process begins as soon as oral hygiene measures are applied. But you can expect to see a significant improvement in your gums within 1 to 2 weeks.

With consistency, you will notice that your gums gradually change color to a light pink. The contours of the gums around the teeth will be more defined. Also, the swelling will disappear and your gums will no longer bleed when you brush your teeth.

Causes that aggravate gingivitis

From gingivitis to periodontitis: The risk factors

The primary cause of gingivitis is dental plaque. This soft, whitish bacterial film is continuously forming on our teeth and gums. Even after brushing, it only takes a few hours to reform.

If plaque is not removed by oral hygiene measures, it builds up and can harden into tartar.

Tartar cannot be removed at home, even with a thorough brushing. It is composed of a calcified mass of bacteria that affects the gums and leads to gingivitis.
Other factors that increase and worsen the risk of gum disease include:

  • Bad oral hygiene: Poor hygiene will lead to the proliferation of harmful bacteria, promoting the formation of dental plaque.
  • Smoking: It weakens the immune system, decreases blood flow to the gums, and can hide the early signs of gum inflammation so that gingivitis can go unnoticed.
  • Stress: Stress hormones affect our immune response and can lead to a condition called bruxism, which involves involuntary teeth grinding. It can make gum disease worse.
  • Medications: Some medications, including antidepressants, antihypertensive, and immunosuppressants, harm the gums by affecting saliva production and immune response.
  • Diabetes: Diabetics are more susceptible to gum disease. Conversely, gum disease makes it difficult to control blood sugar levels.
  • Genetics: Some severe forms of periodontal disease can be hereditary. Genetic factors can amplify the immune response, leading to advanced periodontal destruction.