Funny Name, Somewhat Serious Business — Gingivitis

L.A. may not be the hotbed of advertising to the degree of New York or Chicago in the East and Portland in the West, but it holds its own. L.A. firms such as Chiat-Day probably wish they had been as successful as the agency that decided to throw the word “gingivitis” at the American consumer. Pretty much everyone has heard the word, and it’s doubtful that’s because of our extensive knowledge of oral health. It’s probably more a factor of the size of the yearly Listerine ad budget. After all, the word gingivitis sounds ominous; it’s an ad copywriter’s dream. And if Listerine helps fight it, oooooooh, I better run out and get some!

But what actually is gingivitis? Since Dr. Fong is an expert at pinhole gum rejuvenation, which can be necessary if gingivitis is allowed to progress into gum recession, we think it’s a good time to give our patients a little primer on gingivitis.

Gingivitis, beyond its scary name

While its name does sound ominous, the term gingivitis simply means gum inflammation. And, like a pesky little brother, plaque is the main irritant of the gums. Plaque is the film that forms on the teeth throughout the day consisting of bacteria, bacterial waste products, food residue, and saliva. When you brush and floss you remove the plaque. Then it starts to rebuild, only to be removed again when you brush. But if you neglect your oral hygiene the plaque can develop beneath the gumline, where it is very irritating to your gums. If allowed to stay there, the plaque hardens into tartar, causing more persistent irritation. And this is where things get dicey. Because while the term “irritation” sounds innocent enough, if this irritation is allowed to continue and progress, it leads to gum disease, clinically known as periodontitis. And periodontitis is not a word you want to hear when in Dr Fong’s chair.

What are signs of gingivitis?

Now that you’re an expert in all things gingivitis, how do you know when you have it? Said gum irritation is easy to spot. Your gums should be pink all over. Any bright red patches show irritation. Your gums should also lie flat against the teeth; inflamed gums tend to recede and pull away from the teeth. Your gums will also be prone to bleeding and this shouldn’t normally happen if you’re using a soft toothbrush. Bleeding is a sign of inflammation. And finally, as in the commercials, your breath will reek. The commercials get this part right — your bad breath is caused by bacteria that is being left to its own devices by your poor oral hygiene.

Gingivitis treatments

To keep your gums healthy and keep gingivitis at bay, it all starts with good home hygiene. Dr. Fong sees the results when that hygiene is less than ideal. Here’s how he treats gingivitis.

  • Prophylactic cleaning

This is a fancy sounding term for your regular twice-yearly cleanings with Dr. Fong. Why twice a year? That generally is the time it takes to start forming tartar and other issues that lead to decay. During these cleanings and checkups, not only will those problem areas receive a thorough cleaning, but we will also point them out to you for more attentive care at home.

  • Scaling

If you have a fair amount of tartar built up under your gumline, we will scrape it off with dental tools. This is called scaling. Why? Because “scraping with dental tools” sounds pedestrian. Depending how much we have to do, we may give you some local anesthesia.

  • Root planing

In root planing, any tiny grooves or pits are removed from the tooth roots to make it easier for the gums to adhere and stop receding. This is done in multiple appointments with local anesthesia.

So, there you have it. You’re an expert at gingivitis, and you didn’t have to call Listerine to get your facts. Is it time for your regular cleaning and exam with Dr. Fong? Call us at (714) 549-1903 to make your appointment.

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