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Tread Gingerly with Gingivitis

You’ve probably heard of gum disease, or gingivitis (thanks, mouthwash ads), and you know it’s bad. But you might not know exactly what it means—and what can happen if it’s ignored.

By Tend

“The gum disease known as gingivitis.” This phrase has been a staple of mouthwash ads going back decades. But what does gingivitis actually mean? And do I really need to care?

Let’s answer the second question first: Yes, you do need to care. We all do. Gingivitis is a mild and reversible form of gum disease, but if it’s ignored in its early stages, it can turn into a severe, irreversible form called periodontitis that can result in tooth loss and require surgical intervention.

What’s gingivitis?

Plaque buildup doesn’t just happen on your teeth. It also happens under your gums. This can make your gums sensitive and inflamed. That’s gingivitis: gum inflammation that can cause discomfort, bleeding gums, receding gums, bad breath, tooth decay, and other symptoms.

Technically, all of us have some gingivitis. And mostly, we’re able to manage it at home with good oral hygiene: think diligent brushing, flossing, and rinsing. But some of us have gingivitis that’s more advanced. And that form of moderate to severe gingivitis requires dental treatments that go beyond a typical cleaning.

SRP ArticleGing Gingivitis

How is gingivitis treated?

If you have gingivitis that’s advanced enough, a typical dental cleaning won’t be helpful, because it doesn’t go far enough below the gum line. It can actually be harmful by allowing bacteria to remain trapped where brushing and flossing can’t reach.

That’s where “non-surgical gum treatment” comes in. During this treatment, your dental hygienist removes plaque and tartar underneath your gums, in areas that can’t be accessed during a typical cleaning.

Will non-surgical gum treatment reverse gingivitis? Yes! Most people can expect this treatment to fully restore their gum health and eliminate all signs of gingivitis. After that, a thorough at-home oral health routine will keep your teeth and gum tissue healthy. That means flossing daily, brushing with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride-based toothpaste, and regular dental checkups—at least twice a year. (Some individuals with health issues that make them more prone to gingivitis may even need more frequent professional cleanings to maintain healthy gums.)

SRP ArticleGing Treatment

What happens if I don’t treat gingivitis?

If left untreated, gingivitis can continue to advance until it becomes periodontal disease. That represents a significantly more dangerous stage of gum disease that affects the structures supporting your teeth—as opposed to just your gums. Periodontal disease is a serious threat to your oral and overall health. It can result in loose teeth, bone loss, or tooth loss and require surgery to treat.

Whereas gingivitis can be cured thanks to non-surgical gum treatment and diligent at-home care, periodontitis can’t be cured. It can only be controlled. That’s why it’s very important to treat gingivitis as soon as it’s diagnosed and to continue to keep it in check.

SRP ArticleGing Progression

How long does non-surgical gum treatment take, and what does it cost?

Because non-surgical gum treatment is more thorough than a typical cleaning, it requires more time to complete. As a result, we may need you to schedule another one to two visits. Similarly, because this treatment is more complex than a typical cleaning, it may not be fully covered by your insurance, and you may have a higher out-of-pocket cost.

We get that it’s not a great feeling to find out that you have to spend more time and money on a medical issue. (And, like any disease, gingivitis is a medical issue.) But ignoring gingivitis will end up creating more complex problems in the future that are far more time-consuming and expensive to deal with. We want to help you avoid that.

READ MORE: My Dentist Said I Can't Get A Normal Cleaning. Why?

How can I be sure I need this?

If you’re new to Tend and your prior dentist never diagnosed you with gingivitis, we know this can be a lot to process. Maybe you aren’t familiar with the warning signs and symptoms of gingivitis and aren’t sure the deep cleaning from non-surgical gum treatment is necessary. We want to assure you of two things.

First, Tend practices evidence-based dentistry that’s rooted in the latest clinical research. As a medical field, we now know more than we used to about gingivitis and how to treat it, and Tend always adheres to the American Dental Association’s standards.

Second, our dentists don’t make a commission on procedures. They only offer the dental care you need. You can decide to proceed with any oral care treatment recommendations confident that your interests and your dentists are aligned.

Tread gingerly with gingivitis—reverse it right away

Take advantage of your dentist’s diagnosis to halt your disease before it advances—and restore your mouth to health.

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