Gingivitis simply means inflammation of the gingiva (i.e., the gum) and this is a common form of periodontal diseases (i.e., conditions affecting the tooth and its supporting structures).
Gingivitis usually occurs as a result of the interaction between oral microorganism (i.e., germs in the mouth) present in dental plaque or calculus (i.e., solidified or semi-solidified tooth dirt) attached to the tooth surface or its supporting tissues and the inflammatory cells of the host (i.e., tooth and its supporting structures). These inflammatory changes (i.e., pain, swelling, redness and relative warmth) are reversible as soon as the plaque or calculus is completely removed.
The most common cause of dental plaque seen among patient is poor oral hygiene. However, there are some other causes that are “non-plaque” induced, like systemic diseases such as diabetes mellitus and so on. Gingivitis can progress into acute or chronic periodontitis, as well as total tooth loss, if not treated as soon as possible. Some of the specific features of gingivitis may include: change in the appearance of the gum, bleeding from the gum, halitosis (mouth odour) and swollen gum.
All of these can be seen on display in a real case scenario shared below:
Case scenario: In a clinic, a patient came mentioning that he had been experiencing bleeding from his gum anytime he brushes his teeth, and this has been ongoing for over 10 years. On examination of the patient’s mouth, there was a lot of accumulated plaque and calculus around his teeth. His gum was heavily swollen as well, with very serious halitosis (i.e., mouth odour). On probing further, he revealed that he thought it was a normal occurrence to bleed while brushing and has never been to a dentist before. This is because he does not see or think there is the need to visit a dentist and was only at that appointment because his friend “pushed” him to.
Points for learning
First of all, it is not normal to bleed while brushing. If you notice this too often visit a dentist for checkup. The earlier, the better.
Secondly, make it a point of duty to visit a dentist at least twice a year. Preferably, every 6 months for dental checkups and professional cleaning of the tooth (i.e., subgingival scaling and polishing).
Maintain good oral hygiene by brushing twice daily (morning and last thing before you go to bed), using a medium texture toothbrush and a fluoride containing toothpaste. The use of tongue scrapper and flossing daily is also advised.
Also, following the dentist oral hygiene instruction and other advice can help prevent gingivitis or its progression into periodontitis over aa long period of time.
The case scenario above is the story of most dental patients and majority of Nigerians today. Therefore, proper dental awareness needs to be worked on across the nation, especially in rural areas. Also, standard dental health care should be made available in primary health centers for easy access to people in communities.
Furthermore, Government should make dental treatment affordable with free dental checkup and low-cost treatment plans, especially at the level of primary health care. NGOs can also contribute to the easy access, availability and affordability of dental care through continuous health education and community outreaches, particularly to the rural environments.
As an individual, always take care of your mouth. Ensuring your mouth is clean and your breath fresh, help to prevent a lot of dental problems and likewise help to improve general wellbeing and confidence. Also, ensure to visit a good dentist for regular checkup and appropriate treatment. In case of a busy schedule, dental appointments and basic procedures (such as scaling and polishing) can be carried out at home or workplace.
Families should make it a routine for members (especially children) to visit a dentist at least twice a year for checkup and to log probable complains, this helps to cultivate the habit. As well as make it a point of duty for all to always follow the good oral hygiene instructions given by dentists.
Conclusively, Gingivitis is a common condition and keeping up good oral hygiene with regular dental checkup are major ways to prevent it from occurring. More importantly, bleeding while brushing is not normal. Prioritize your health and wellbeing.
Dr Fashina G. O. is a dental officer who is passionate about dental health education, with interest in writing, fashion entrepreneurship and community development.