Gingivitis vs Healthy Gums (Pictures), Symptoms & Treatment

A healthy mouth doesn’t only mean a caries-free mouth. It also means healthy gums. Do you know the difference between gingivitis vs healthy gums? Gums are soft tissues that cover the jawbone and seal around teeth to prevent bacteria from growing in these places. Also, Teeth surrounded by healthy gums can give you a beautiful smile, make you look good, and boost your self-confidence. The inflammation of gums (gingivitis) commonly occurs due to the buildup of plaque bacteria along the gum line, which irritates healthy gums.

The healthy gums are pink and fit tightly around teeth. Changes in the color of healthy gums to red or purple can be a sign of gingivitis. Other signs and symptoms of gingivitis include gum bleeding and swelling. Gingivitis is a reversible condition. If gingivitis is left untreated, the infection may spread to tooth-surrounding tissues (periodontitis), which can lead to tooth loss. In this article, we will discuss the differences between gingivitis vs healthy gums.

What Makes Healthy Gums Turn to Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gum tissues (gingiva). It commonly occurs due to the accumulation of plaque on gums and teeth. Dental plaque is a sticky, colorless film of bacteria, which decompose carbohydrates in food and produce acids as a result. Plaque irritates the healthy gums, causing gingivitis. Plaque can be easily removed by tooth brushing and flossing.

When plaque is not removed regularly, it will harden into tartar (calculus), which has a yellow to brown color. Tartar can cover the teeth and accumulate below the gum line. It can’t be removed by tooth brushing or flossing. So, you have to visit your dentist for professional cleaning. Plaque and tartar irritate healthy gums, causing gingivitis, periodontitis, and cavities.

Plaque and tartar turn healthy gums into gingivitis
Plaque and tartar irritate healthy gums, causing gingivitis and periodontitis.

Other Causes and Risk Factors

Several factors can irritate healthy gums, causing gingivitis. These factors include:

  • Smoking: Smoking reduces the production of saliva, causing dry mouth, which increases the risk of gingivitis and cavities. Also, smoking weakens your body’s ability to fight infection, making it harder to fight gum disease.
  • Poor oral hygiene: when you don’t brush your teeth, plaque accumulates on teeth and healthy gums, which increases the risk of gingivitis and cavities.
  • Hormonal changes: for example, during pregnancy, menstrual cycle, or the use of birth control bills.
  • Poor nutrition: such as vitamin-C deficiency. Vitamin-C keeps your gums healthy and prevents gingivitis.
  • Dry mouth: saliva cleanses and moistens your mouth. Also, it prevents infections. Low salivary flow (dry mouth) increases the risk of gum disease, cavities, and oral thrush. Dry mouth may occur as a result of dehydration, smoking, certain medications, chemotherapy treatment for cancer, and radiation to the head & neck.
  • Age: the risk of gingivitis increases with age. It often occurs in adults aged 30 years or older.
  • Some medical conditions and medications: some diseases are linked to a higher risk of gingivitis, for example, diabetes mellitus, cancer, HIV, and certain viral & fungal infections. Also, some medications can cause dry mouth as a side effect, which increases the risk of gingivitis. For example, drugs used to treat depression, anxiety, pain, allergies, and colds.

What Do Gingivitis vs Healthy Gums Look? (Color & Texture)

If you want to prevent gingivitis, you should know what healthy gums look like. Healthy gums are usually pink in color. However, they can come in a variety of shades from light pink to darker colors such as brown or even black, depending on your ethnic origin. Also, healthy gums feel firm to touch and fit tightly around your teeth. While in gingivitis, unhealthy gums are red, soft, and easily bleed when brushing or flossing. Besides, they can look and feel puffy and tender to touch. Over time, gums with gingivitis begin to bull pack from teeth (receding gums).

Unhealthy gums (gingivitis) are red or purple in color
Unhealthy gums (gingivitis) are red, soft, and easily bleed when brushing or flossing. Image source: east rose dental

Other Signs and Symptoms of Gingivitis

In the early stage of gum disease, there may be no pain or noticeable symptoms. Signs and symptoms of gingivitis include:

  • The gums are red or purple.
  • Inflamed and swollen gums.
  • The gums are soft and tender to touch.
  • They easily bleed when brushing or flossing.
  • Bad breath.
  • Receding gums.

Gingivitis vs Healthy Gums (Comparison)

ComparisonGingivitisHealthy Gums
ColorUsually red (from bright red & purple to unhealthy black)Usually pink (from light pink to brown or even black).
TextureSoft & swollenFirm
BleedingBleeds easily with brushing or flossing.No bleeding.
DiscomfortTender to touch.No pain or discomfort.
FittingBegin to pull back from the teeth (receding gums).Fit tightly around the tooth.
Comparison between gingivitis vs healthy gums.
Gingivitis vs Healthy Gums (Comparison)
Comparison between gingivitis vs healthy gums. Image source: the family dental center

Complications of Gingivitis

Untreated gingivitis can spread to the tissues and bone that support and surround teeth, which can lead to tooth loss. Complications of gingivitis include:

  • Receding gums: the gum tissues pull back from teeth, exposing tooth roots. Receding gums make the teeth appear longer, causing aesthetic problems, especially in anterior teeth.
  • Gum abscess: it is a collection of pus in the space between teeth and gums.
  • Loose teeth and tooth loss: this occurs due to the destruction of tissues that surround and support teeth.

Besides, several studies have linked gum disease to systemic diseases such as stroke, diabetes, heart attack, respiratory disease, coronary artery disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Some research suggests that gum disease is linked with problems in pregnancy and dementia.

How to Turn Gingivitis into Healthy Gums? (Treatment)

Gingivitis can be reversed if it is diagnosed early. The treatment of gingivitis can turn red, swollen gums into pink, healthy gums.

Treatment at Dental Office

When your gums easily bleed when brushing or flossing, you should visit your dentist for professional teeth cleaning because bleeding gums is a warning sign of gingivitis. Professional teeth cleaning involves the removal of tartar and plaque from teeth surfaces and below the gum line. You can’t remove tartar at home by brushing or flossing. Tartar is only removed professionally at the dental office.

Also, your dentist will treat dental problems such as cavities in between teeth and badly fitted crowns and bridges because they accumulate plaque and tartar rapidly and make it harder to remove them.

Care at Home

After professional teeth cleaning, you should follow these instructions at home to prevent the recurrence of gingivitis and keep your gums healthy.

  • Brush at least twice daily to remove dental plaque.
  • Floss at least once daily to remove plaque from between teeth.
  • Rinse your mouth regularly with an antiseptic mouth rinse.

Professional teeth cleaning and care at home will turn red, swollen gums (gingivitis) into pink, healthy gums.

How to Keep Gums Healthy & Prevent Gingivitis?

Some simple oral hygiene practices will keep your gums healthy and prevent gingivitis.

  • Regular tooth brushing: brush your teeth at least twice daily to remove plaque and food debris from teeth surfaces.
  • Regular flossing: floss your teeth at least once per day to remove plaque and food debris from between teeth. The toothbrush may not remove plaque from between teeth.
  • Use a mouthwash: rinse your mouth with a mouthwash as part of your daily teeth-cleaning routine.
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet: avoid foods high in sugar because it increases the risk of gingivitis and cavities. Eat vegetables and fruits (vitamin-C) to keep your gum health.
  • Sipping water often: drink water to keep your mouth moist. Also, avoid smoking because it contributes to dry mouth condition, which increases the risk of gingivitis.
  • Visit your dentist regularly: schedule an appointment with your dentist for professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar. Your dentist can detect problems early and reverse gingivitis.

Summary

  • A healthy mouth doesn’t only mean a caries-free mouth. It also means healthy gums.
  • Healthy gums are pink and fit tightly around teeth.
  • Inflamed gums (gingivitis) are red, soft, swollen, and easily bleed when brushing or flossing.
  • Other signs and symptoms of gingivitis include receding gums and tenderness to touch.
  • Gingivitis is a reversible condition.
  • Visit your dentist for professional cleaning to remove plaque from teeth surfaces and below the gum line.
  • Brush and floss your teeth regularly to prevent the recurrence of gingivitis and keep your gums healthy.

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