Gingivitis is the most common and mild form of oral/dental disease. According to the Food and Drug Administration, approximately 15 percent of adults between 21 and 50 years old, and 30 percent of adults over 50 have gum disease (FDA 2002). Gingivitis is characterized by inflammation and bleeding of the gums. Because gingivitis is rarely painful in its early stages, it often goes unnoticed until severe irritation or receding gums occur.
The main cause of gingivitis is plaque (or biofilm), a soft, sticky film that forms on the teeth when starches and sugars react with bacteria that is naturally present in the mouth. Plaque buildup occurs between the teeth and gums, in faulty fillings, and near poorly cleaned partial dentures, bridges, and braces. If not removed within 72 hours, plaque will harden into tartar that cannot be removed by brushing or flossing.
The best defense against gingivitis is brushing and flossing after meals, as well as professional cleaning by a dental hygienist every three to four months.
If left untreated, gingivitis may lead to a more serious condition called periodontitis, in which the inner gum and bone pull away from teeth and form pockets. These pockets can collect bacteria and debris, and become infected or abscessed. Bacterial toxins eventually break down the underlying bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. The ultimate outcome is tooth loss. For more information, see Life Extension’s Periodontitis and Cavities protocol.