How Gingivitis Relates to Dry Mouth, Bad Breath, and Bleeding Gums

gingivitis and dry mouth

Early Warning Signs of Gingivitis

Gingivitis is a familiar term to most adults. You see it in pamphlets in dental offices and on popular oral care products in stores. But despite the familiarity of the word, many people don’t actually know what gingivitis is, its relation to gum disease, or how to recognize the symptoms.

To help you feel more confident in protecting your oral health, we’ll go over the basics of gingivitis, including three early warning signs you could be experiencing right now.

How Gum Disease Develops

Gum disease is the most prevalent oral health problem in adults. Dentists often refer to it as the silent killer of healthy smiles because it doesn’t show obvious symptoms until later in development. It’s possible to have mild gum disease and not even be aware of its presence. 

Gingivitis is the precursor to gum disease and, ideally, will be treated before it can develop into periodontal disease. Without professional dental care, gingivitis will gradually worsen, and the inflammation will eventually become an infection.

The most advanced stage of gum disease is periodontitis, characterized by severe gum infection, tooth loss, and irreversible damage to gum tissue and jawbone.

Seeing your dentist every six months is paramount in the early diagnosis of gingivitis and prevention of periodontitis. However, gingivitis can develop rapidly, sometimes in just a few weeks. But if you know what warning signs to look for, you can recognize gingivitis symptoms and get help from your dentist sooner rather than later.

3 Common Symptoms of Gingivitis

Gingivitis has several symptoms, but most cases share three main red flags that point to gum inflammation and irritation.

All three issues share one common denominator, and that’s plaque buildup. Plaque pushes against the gums and works downward into the space between it and the tooth. Excessive plaque triggers an inflammatory response, resulting in gingivitis.

1. Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is both a trigger and a symptom of gingivitis. When dry mouth becomes a chronic condition, it’s known as xerostomia. Medications, dehydration, sleep apnea, and other medical conditions can cause xerostomia.

Saliva production is essential for optimal oral health. When salivary glands cannot produce normal levels of saliva, the mouth begins to feel dry and sticky. Not only is this uncomfortable, but it also leads to plaque buildup because there isn’t enough saliva to wash away food debris and bacteria.

2. Bad Breath

Bad breath, or halitosis, is a telltale sign of trouble. Experiencing morning breath is normal, but if you brush, floss, and generally take good care of your teeth and still have bad breath, something is wrong.

Plaque is a sticky layer of biofilm that’s home to bacteria. Bacteria feed on sugars and starches, and when bacteria flourishes, they produce unpleasant odors resulting in bad breath. When plaque hardens, it can’t be entirely removed by brushing or flossing, and bad breath will continue to worsen until you see your dentist.

3. Bleeding Gums

Bleeding gums is the most frequently seen symptom of gingivitis and gum disease. It typically begins with you seeing pink when you spit after brushing or noticing blood on your string of floss. Gums also will look red and irritated or feel puffy and tender.

Bleeding gum tissue is common, but that doesn’t mean it’s normal. The bleeding occurs because the gum tissue is inflamed and highly sensitive from plaque buildup. The mouth is a very vascular area of the body and will bleed easily when in such a delicate state. 

How Gingivitis Is Treated

Gingivitis is completely reversible, and most cases respond very well to treatment. After a positive diagnosis, your dentist will start you on a treatment plan and offer guidance on reducing lifestyle risks. 

Advanced gum disease, however, is known as periodontitis and requires more extensive treatment called periodontal therapy.

Periodontal Therapy

Periodontal therapy is a blanket term that includes three main phases of care: deep cleanings, professional treatment, and oral surgery. Which treatment approach is right for you will depend on the severity of your periodontitis.

Removing plaque buildup and hardened tartar is an essential first step to treating periodontitis. Your dentist will use scaling and root planing to thoroughly clean all surfaces of your teeth, including deep within the inflamed gum pockets surrounding the teeth. Scaling removes buildup from the surface of the enamel, while root planing smooths the tooth root to encourage gum reattachment.

Following scaling and root planing, your dentist will likely have you return for frequent hygiene visits to maintain your results. These visits may be as often as every two to three months until your dentist is confident you’ve achieved optimal oral health.

At-Home Maintenance

Lifestyle habits play a significant role in reversing gingivitis. You can prevent gingivitis from returning with a stellar dental care routine, healthy eating habits, and cessation of tobacco or excessive alcohol use.

Remember that some people are more inclined to plaque buildup than others. For example, you may be taking a necessary medication that triggers dry mouth or have a genetic propensity for plaque development. Your dentist will tailor your preventive care plan with these factors in mind.

Reclaim Your Gum Health With Dr. Garcia’s Help

Dr. Garcia is a family dentist in Austin, Texas, passionate about helping patients of all ages achieve their best smiles. She and her team provide comprehensive dental care services, including modern periodontal therapy and gum surgery to treat gingivitis and periodontitis.Get in touch immediately for an evaluation if you’ve been experiencing dry mouth, bad breath, bleeding gums, or other symptoms. Book your visit by calling our office or requesting an appointment online.

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