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Gingivitis - what is it?
When the gums are inflamed, doctors speak of gingivitis. Redness, swelling and bleeding gums are the typical symptoms. In most cases, bacterial plaque is the cause of the disease. Thorough oral hygiene is therefore essential for gingivitis. In this way, the pathogens that cause the disease are combated and the inflammation can subside.
Good to know
Periodontitis can develop from “simple” gingivitis. The inflammation then spreads to the entire periodontium, which can ultimately lead to the loss of teeth.
Inflamed gums: typical signs
Healthy gums are pale pink in color, fit snugly against the neck of the tooth, and completely fill the spaces between the teeth. In addition, healthy gums do not bleed. In contrast, gingivitis presents with the classic signs of inflammation: The affected area is not only sensitive to touch, but also reddened and swollen. In addition, even slight mechanical irritation can cause bleeding of the gums. It is also typical for plaque to be visible at the gumline.
Gum inflammation: symptoms & signs
- Bleeding gums (e.g. when brushing teeth)
- Plaque on the gum line
Good to know:Bleeding gums can also be a sign of periodontitis. A visit to the dentist provides clarity.
Gingivitis or periodontitis?
The differences between “simple” gingivitis and periodontitis are hardly apparent to the layperson. In fact, however, from a dental point of view, the two diseases are worlds apart. In gingivitis, only the gums are inflamed. Periodontitis, on the other hand, is characterized by the fact that the entire periodontium is affected by the inflammation, resulting in progressive tissue degradation. This can ultimately lead to teeth falling out.
Gum inflammation usually heals completely with intensive oral hygiene. If it remains untreated, periodontitis can develop. This is an irreversible process that requires permanent treatment.
Gingivitis: Causes at a glance
Basically, various factors are possible triggers of gingivitis. In addition to mechanical injuries (for example, from toothpicks), hot drinks, chemical substances such as bleaching agents, or infections such as gonorrhea, herpes, or fungal diseases can also lead to corresponding symptoms. In addition, allergic reactions to ingredients in toothpastes or genetic factors are among the possible causes. In most cases, however, it is actually bacterial plaque that causes the inflammation.
Gum inflammation: Causes
- Bacterial plaque
- Mechanical injuries
- Thermal irritation
- Chemical substances
- Allergic reactions
- Genetic factors
- Specific infections (e.g. bacteria, fungi, viruses)
Bacteria & Gums
Bacterial plaque, also called plaque or biofilm, is the most common cause of gingivitis. The microorganisms living in it not only produce acids that lead to the development of caries. They also produce harmful enzymes and toxins that irritate the gums and cause an inflammatory reaction. This manifests itself with the typical signs of inflammation: The gums redden and swell. As the tissue becomes more permeable and blood flow is increased, bleeding of the gums may also occur.
Good to know:
If dental hygiene is inadequate, harmful bacteria can multiply in the mouth and cause caries and inflammation of the gums (gingivitis) or periodontitis.
Risk factors for gingivitis
Certain internal and external influences can promote the development of gingivitis or lead to an intensification of the problems. These include, for example:
- Inadequate oral hygiene
- High sugar diet
- Weakened immune system
- Hormonal factors (pregnancy)
- Some medications (e.g., antiepileptic drugs, drugs for high blood pressure)
- Certain underlying diseases (e.g. diabetes mellitus)
- Malnutrition (anorexia, alcoholism, chronic vitamin C deficiency)
Good to know: Some groups of people are particularly susceptible to gingivitis – learn more about these risk groups.
What promotes gingivitis?
Gingivitis can basically affect anyone. In most cases, the cause is bacterial plaque that has not been removed carefully enough. However, some groups of people develop gingivitis particularly easily. This is because certain factors can promote gum problems. In addition to inadequate oral hygiene and a high-sugar diet, these include stress, hormonal factors and smoking. In addition, certain underlying diseases and medications also increase susceptibility to gum inflammation.
Gum inflammation: Treatment at a glance
Gingivitis is usually triggered by bacterial plaque. Therefore, optimal oral and dental hygiene is the most important measure in gingivitis treatment. This is the only way to eliminate the most common cause of the disease – plaque bacteria. And this is the most important prerequisite for getting the inflammation under control. In addition, the use of a medical mouth rinse is often recommended, which is used for a short time to specifically combat the bacteria in the oral cavity.
Good to know: If effective treatment fails to take place, a “simple” gum inflammation can also develop into periodontitis. Then the gums recede and teeth can fall out.
Basic rules for optimal dental hygiene
What helps against gingivitis? The first important step is to improve dental and oral hygiene. We have compiled the most important basic rules here for you:
Rule 1: Brush your teeth thoroughly and regularly
- Brush your teeth twice a day, preferably in the morning after breakfast and in the evening before going to bed.
- Always follow the same system. The KAI method has proven to be a good brushing technique.
- Use a toothbrush with soft bristles and do not apply too much pressure so that the sensitive gums are not additionally irritated.
Rule 2: Also clean the interdental spaces daily
- Plaque also forms between the teeth. The normal toothbrush does not succeed in removing these.
- To ensure that the spaces between the teeth are also clean, other aids are needed.
- If the teeth are close together, dental floss is the right tool. If the spaces between the teeth are wide open, interdental brushes are recommended.
Rule 3: Remove plaque from the tongue
- A large proportion of the bacteria in the oral cavity is found in the tongue coating.
- With the help of a tongue brush and scraper, the amount of bacteria on the tongue can be significantly reduced.
- Good to know: Most microorganisms are found at the back of the tongue.
Rule 4: Pay attention to hygiene
- Replace your toothbrush with a new one every two months at the latest.
- Interdental brushes should be replaced after 14 days.
- Clean your toothbrush under running water after each use and store it afterwards so that it can dry.
If optimal oral hygiene is maintained, the inflammation will usually subside within a few days and the symptoms will recede. If there is no improvement or the inflammation worsens, a visit to the dentist is advisable.
By the way, good oral and dental hygiene is also advisable to prevent gingivitis.
Remedies against gingivitis
In addition to careful daily oral hygiene, special remedies against gingivitis can be helpful.
Under certain circumstances, an ointment can be used for gum inflammation. In most cases, such preparations contain active ingredients that numb the gums – they may relieve the pain, but they do not act against the cause of the inflammation. They are therefore by no means suitable as a sole treatment measure.
Causative treatment is made possible by antibacterial medicines, which include medical mouth rinses (available over the counter at pharmacies). They usually contain the active ingredient chlorhexidine, which has long been used as an antiseptic in dentistry. It kills bacteria and protects against the increased formation of new plaque. A medical mouth rinse against gingivitis is intended for short-term use.
So-called “cosmetic mouth rinses” can be used for daily oral hygiene. These contain chlorhexidine in a suitably low dosage or other substances such as fluoride compounds or essential oils.
Herbal preparations against gingivitis often contain chamomile, sage or essential oils and are offered as tinctures or sprays. They also have a certain antibacterial effect.
Optimal oral hygiene
In most cases, it is the bacteria in dental plaque that cause the gums to become inflamed. It is therefore all the more important to remove this plaque regularly and thoroughly. After all, optimum oral hygiene is the most important prerequisite for getting gum inflammation under control. In concrete terms, this means brushing your teeth twice a day and also cleaning the spaces between your teeth with dental floss or interdental brushes, preferably in the evening. Extra tip: The right toothpaste can also make an important contribution to proper oral hygiene. Special ingredients such as fluorides and mineral salts support thorough cleaning of the teeth.
Home remedies for gingivitis – what can they do?
Home remedies enjoy great popularity – but can homemade mouthwashes and herbal teas really help against gingivitis? Some herbal ingredients may well have a certain antibacterial effect or alleviate mild inflammation. However, it is doubtful whether these effects are sufficient to combat the plaque bacteria, which are usually the root of the problem. Moreover, with “home-made” teas and tinctures, it is usually difficult to ensure accurate and consistent dosage.
Chamomile & Sage rinses
Homemade mouthwashes made from chamomile and sage are probably among the best-known home remedies for gum inflammation. It is often recommended to make a tea from the medicinal plants, with which the mouth should be thoroughly rinsed several times a day. This is expected to have a certain antibacterial effect and mild anti-inflammatory effects.
Cloves used to be considered a proven household remedy for toothache. The fact is that the essential ingredients do not provide sufficient causal treatment. But they are said to have mild antibacterial and analgesic effects. Therefore, clove oil is also recommended in herbal medicine for the preparation of a mouthwash or as a tincture for gingivitis.
Caution: Some people are allergic to the ingredients of clove. In addition, clove oil is toxic in higher concentrations and should not be used on infants and young children, as well as pregnant women.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is also repeatedly recommended as a home remedy for inflamed gums. Diluted with water, it should be applied several times a day to rinse the mouth. In this way, an antibacterial effect should be achieved and the inflammation fought.
Caution: The acid in vinegar attacks the teeth!
Effective treatment is important
It is undisputed that thorough oral hygiene is the most important prerequisite for getting gum inflammation under control. Since bacteria are usually the triggers, the short-term use of a medical mouth rinse with an antibacterial agent is often recommended in addition.
If gingivitis is not treated properly, it can progress to periodontitis, which can lead to tooth loss. If the inflammation does not subside within a few days, a visit to the dentist is therefore strongly recommended.