Increased sensitivity in your gums may be an indicator of a serious dental problem known as gum disease. This occurs when your gum tissue has become inflamed, and can be very painful. You may have other symptoms as well. Gum disease is sometimes referred to as gingivitis, and is different from periodontitis, though they sometimes occur together.
What causes gingivitis?
Gingivitis begins when food particles mix with saliva and bacteria in the mouth to form plaque. This sticks to the surfaces of your teeth, and provide a breeding ground for harmful bacteria in the mouth. If not removed, these bacteria will begin to irritate the gums, leaving them sensitive, red, and sometimes swollen.
In most cases, improper oral hygiene practices are the root cause behind gingivitis, though not always. Other causes may include:
- Hormonal changes, such as those during pregnancy, menopause, or puberty.
- Misaligned teeth can create difficult to clean areas that may develop into areas of gingivitis.
- Smoking or other tobacco use prevents your gum tissue from healing properly, which can lead to gingivitis.
- Stress can lower your immune response to bacteria in the mouth and on the gums.
- Poor nutrition may impair healing and increase plaque formation.
- Diabetes can impair blood circulation in the gums, reducing their ability to heal.
- Certain medications (such as anti-seizure drugs) may promote gum disease.
How is gum disease treated?
Gum disease treatment focuses on identifying and eliminating the causes of the problem. First, you will be advised on proper brushing technique and given recommendations for any specialized toothbrush, toothpaste, or mouth rinse that you may require. If an underlying medical condition or medication is the cause, you may be advised to discuss the issue with your doctor so alternative treatments may be considered. Finally, your teeth will be professionally cleaned in order to remove any plaque and tartar that may have accumulated on your teeth and below the gum line.
In some cases, your gingivitis may have also led to the development of periodontal disease. This will require an appointment for deep cleaning, or possibly oral surgery to properly clean the teeth, tooth roots, and gum pockets that may have formed. In some cases you may also be prescribed an antibiotic to counteract bacterial growth in the oral cavity. This may be given in the form of a pill, or as an antibiotic mouthwash that can help to reduce the bacteria that most commonly cause gum disease. If you have deep gum pockets, antibiotic pellets can be placed inside them to kill more stubborn bacteria.