What Is Gingivitis?
To start off, what is a gingiva?
Otherwise known as gums. The branch of dentistry that deals with gingiva care is known as periodontics. Periodontics is the a speciality that takes care of the supporting and surrounding tissues of teeth and dental implant.
Gingiva are connective tissues with soft mucous membrane (involved in absorption and secretion) that cover our mandible and maxilla in our mouths. They are in charge of wrapping the root of teeth, providing protection to the sensitive nerve and blood vessels. They are highly vascular (network of blood vessels), meaning they can bleed easily upon lacerations.
Anatomically, we can categorize the gingiva into 2 parts -attached gingiva and the alveolar mucosa.
The attached gingiva is keratinized (keratin: a family of fibrous structural tissue, a key structure in the upper layer of human skin), making it strong and immovable, as compared to the alveolar mucosa, which is the made up of muscle tissues, making it flexible to allow movements of the cheeks and lips. The structures of each component can affect, and impact the development of certain gum diseases.
Healthy gingiva are usually coral pink in color and have a smooth appearance around each tooth. However, as the color can vary, it is more important to look out for non uniformity in color, as it may be more indicative of periodontal diseases such as gingivitis, abscesses (collection of pus) or acquired deformities.
Other common gum issues include sore and/or bleeding gums.
What Is Gingivitis?
At this point, since we mentioned the term gingivitis, let’s digress a little and talk about medical terms.
Alien sounding medical terminology can be intimidating and downright confusing sometimes. But they are actually quite logical when we come to understand the structure behind it.
A term “gingivitis” can be broken up into its main and root words : main word being “gingiv” (meaning the gums) and the root “- itits” (meaning inflammation).
The main word would be the organ involved and the root word telling us what the condition is. So when put together, gingivitis would simply mean the inflammation of the gingiva.
The gingiva, when not properly cleaned, is very susceptible to bacterial accumulation, that facilitates the formation of plaque and tartar. The environment of food particles and saliva adds to the “flavor”, essentially providing a free for all buffet for bacteria to feast on.
The spaces between teeth are common places for gingivitis development because of the sheer difficulty in reaching those places. As gingivitis is usually not painful, people may not be aware when they develop it. Gingivitis is reversible with proper oral care.
Proper brushing techniques, coupled by the use of effective mouth cleaning tools such as interdental toothbrush, electronic toothbrush, water irrigator, to name a few, can help wonders in protecting the integrity of our gums. When left untreated, gingivitis may develop into periodontitis.
Periodontitis is destructive as the inflammation of the surrounding tooth structure becomes severely damaged. The damaged gingiva is not able to hold teeth properly and the teeth usually falls out.
Periodontitis is irreversible, so it is important that we take good care of our gums!