Gum Disease (Gingivitis)

  • Medical Author:
    Steven B. Horne, DDS

    Dr. Steve Horne began his career at Brigham Young University obtaining his BA in English. He earned his Doctorate of Dental Surgery in 2007 from the University of Southern California where his pursuit for academic excellence landed him on the Dean's List. He was recognized for his superior clinical skills and invited to help teach other dental students in courses on restorative dentistry, prosthodontics, and tooth anatomy. During dental school, he provided dental care for underserved populations of Los Angeles and Orange County, Mexico, and Costa Rica with AYUDA. Following dental school, Dr. Horne entered active duty with the U.S. Army and practiced dentistry at Fort Knox, Kentucky, for four years. During this time, he was deployed to Baghdad, Iraq, and received multiple Army Achievement Medals, the Army Commendation Medal, and served as Company Commander. Dr. Horne currently practices full time at Torrey Pines Dental Arts in La Jolla, California, as a general dentist. Dr. Horne is a member of the American Dental Association, the California Dental Association, and the Academy of General Dentistry. Dr. Horne is married to his wife, Christy, and they have a chocolate Labrador named Roscoe.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

View Cosmetic Dentistry: Before and After Slideshow Pictures

Quick GuideDental Health: The Ugly Truth About Your Toothbrush

Dental Health: The Ugly Truth About Your Toothbrush

Is it possible to prevent gum disease?

Prevention of gingivitis and periodontal disease is very simple in most cases. Gum disease is best prevented through proper plaque control. This involves brushing to remove plaque from the outer surfaces of the teeth and flossing to remove food particles and plaque from in between the teeth. Electronic toothbrushes tend to make it easier to remove plaque from some of the harder to reach areas of the mouth. Using a mouthwash after brushing and flossing can also help by reducing the bacteria that cause gingivitis.

Besides these basic oral hygiene practices, there are other things that can be done to eliminate the factors that lead to an increase in gum disease:

  • Sleep/stress: The immune system is very important in controlling disease, and getting adequate sleep and reducing stress will help the body fight gum disease, too.
  • Stop smoking: Smokers are much more likely to develop gingivitis and periodontal disease, so avoiding tobacco should be the first thing someone does to achieve healthy gums.
  • Orthodontic therapy or braces: It is much easier to remove plaque from straight teeth than crowded, overlapped, and crooked teeth. Braces can make a big difference in having healthier gums.
  • Diet: Limiting the frequency of plaque-causing sugars and carbohydrates will help limit plaque. Eating a well-balanced diet will help keep the body's immune system healthy and ready to fight infection.

What is the best toothpaste to use to prevent gum disease?

The goal of toothbrushing is to remove plaque on the teeth that will harbor bacteria and cause gum disease and tooth decay. Just about any toothpaste when used with consistent thorough brushing habits will accomplish this goal. There are some ingredients in toothpastes that help remove plaque more effectively and help keep plaque off the teeth after they have been brushed. The abrasive agents in toothpaste such as silicates and calcium carbonates help remove plaque that is a little sticky. Sodium lauryl sulfate is a detergent in toothpaste that causes the foaming effect of toothpastes. Toothpastes vary in the amount of SLS they contain; a high concentration of SLS can cause problems for patients who have dry mouth or low saliva flow. Some toothpastes include plaque-control agents such as pyrophosphates and zinc citrate that prevent plaque from sticking to the teeth after they've been brushed. Using a toothpaste that contains any combination of these ingredients will increase the effectiveness of oral hygiene.

Furthermore, rinsing with an essential-oil containing dentifrice (mouthwash) for 30 seconds twice daily after brushing helps prevent plaque buildup even more.

Is gum disease contagious?

While most of the factors that lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease are dependent on the individual, there has been some limited scientific evidence to affirm that gingivitis and periodontitis-causing bacteria can be passed down from parents to children and between couples.

REFERENCES:

Asikainan, S., et al. "Can one acquire periodontal bacteria and periodontitis from a family member?" The Journal of the American Dental Association 128.9 (1997): 1263-1271.

Atkinson, Jane C., Anne O'Connell, and Doron Aframian. "Oral Manifestations of Primary Immunological Diseases." The Journal of the American Dental Association 131.3 (2000): 345-356.

Charles, Christine H., et al. "Comparative efficacy of an antiseptic mouthrinse and an antiplaque/antigingivitis dentifrice: A six-month clinical trial." The Journal of the American Dental Association 132.5 (2001): p670-675.

Demmer, Ryan T. and Moise Desvarieux. "Periodontal infections and cardiovascular disease: the heart of the matter." The Journal of the American Dental Association 137 Suppl (2006): 14S-20S.

"Gum Disease." Mouth Healthy. American Dental Association.

Lazarchik, David A., and B. Van Haywood. "Use of Tray-Applied 10 Percent Carbamide Peroxide Gels for Improving Oral Health in Patients With Special-Care Needs." The Journal of the American Dental Association 141.6 (2010): 639-646.

Meraw, S. J. and C. M. Reeve. "A case report: Treating localized refractory idiopathic gingivitis with Superoxol." The Journal of the American Dental Association 129.4 (1998): 470-472.

Neville, Brad W., et al. Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology. 2nd ed. Saunders, 2002.

Snider, J. "Green tea may promote periodontal health." The Journal of the American Dental Association 140.7 (2009) 838.

Stephen, James M. "Gingivitis." Medscape.com. Dec. 31, 2014. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/763801-overview>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/6/2016

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