Gingivitis, more commonly known as gum disease, is extremely common amongst adults. Almost everybody will experience a bout of gingivitis at some point in their lifetime and over half of adults will have it at any one time. It is not usually a serious medical condition but it can cause complications which go on have more serious consequences.
In the early stages, gingivitis presents itself most commonly as gums which are unusually red and inflamed. One of the tell-tale signs of gum disease is if your gums bleed when you floss or brush your teeth.
If gingivitis is left untreated for long periods of time, the infection can spread to the surrounding areas. The tissue and the bone supporting the teeth can develop the infection. This complication of gingivitis is called periodontitis and has a longer list of symptoms than gingivitis alone. It can cause halitosis (bad breath) which can lead to a persistent unpleasant taste which stays in the mouth. If untreated for a long time then it can also cause some of the teeth to become loose which can make eating and drinking a difficult and painful process. The movement of these teeth allows bacteria to build up around and underneath them which can lead to serious abscesses in the gums.
In very rare cases, gingivitis can develop suddenly into a condition called acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG). This complication can come on very quickly and without warning. Its symptoms are much more severe than those of ordinary gingivitis, including, amongst others, gums which bleed almost continuously, painful and blistering ulcers, difficulty eating and swallowing, receding gums and a high fever.
Whilst there is no evidence to suggest that gum disease directly causes other health conditions in adults, it has been proven that people with gingivitis are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, lung infections and premature labor in pregnant patients.
Patients whose gingivitis develops in periodontal disease are twice as likely to develop heart disease. The infection can lead to a condition called atherosclerosis which causes the outside of the arteries to harden. Particles carried in your blood stream start to stick to the artery walls and clog them up, making it more difficult for the blood to flow through. Blocked arteries are one of the most common causes of heart attacks and strokes. One theory which is circulating amongst researchers at the moment is that bacteria from the mouth, gingivitis bacteria in particular, enters the bloodstream through the gums and sticks to the particles in the blood, causing the arteries to become blocked twice as quickly. This theory has yet to be proven but could be the explanation behind the statistics.
Most of the time, gingivitis will go unnoticed by those who have it. Some people are more susceptible to it than others and for the majority of adults, it will not have any noticeable adverse effects on their health. However, if it does develop into another condition, this could have much more serious consequences for the patient in question.