What is Ulcerative Gingivitis?

Mary McMahon

Ulcerative gingivitis is an acute infection of the gingiva, also known as the gums. It is caused by bacteria, and usually onsets very quickly, accompanied by pain. It needs to be treated, because it can turn into necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (NUG), in which parts of the gum tissue are actually destroyed by the infection. Persistent infection can also result in damage to other tissues in the mouth, which is very undesirable from a clinical standpoint in addition to a personal one.

Dentists may prescribe antibiotics for ulcerative gingivitis.
Dentists may prescribe antibiotics for ulcerative gingivitis.

The most common risk factor for ulcerative gingivitis is smoking, followed by stress. College students are common victims of this medical condition during exam time. People who are immunocompromised or already sick are at increased risk if they find themselves in stressful situations. The gums usually swell and turn red, although they may develop a grayish coating, and they bleed freely in addition to feeling very painful. Ulcerations may be clearly visible on the gums as well.

Using mouthwash is part of the care when dealing with ulcerative gingivitis.
Using mouthwash is part of the care when dealing with ulcerative gingivitis.

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The treatment for ulcerative gingivitis involves debridement to remove infected and dead tissue from the gums, followed by a careful regimen of oral care which includes the use of mouthwash. Once the patient has healed, a dentist may recommend that the patient be more rigorous about oral care, and that the patient use specific mouthwash products to keep the mouth clean and healthy. Oral care includes regular flossing, brushing, and mouthwash use in addition to periodic dental checkups to identify the early signs of dental problems.

A dental cleaning can help prevent gingivitis.
A dental cleaning can help prevent gingivitis.

Some patients find that rinsing with saltwater helps with ulcerative gingivitis. The dentist may also prescribe a mouthwash product which is designed to kill the bacteria and support gum health. Patients can also take antibiotics to attack the source of infection, as may be recommended if the gingivitis appears to have spread or is unusually severe. It takes one to two weeks for the ulcerative gingivitis to resolve, in most cases.

After a patient has healed from debridement the doctor may encourage more rigorous oral care.
After a patient has healed from debridement the doctor may encourage more rigorous oral care.

It is important to pay attention to dental health. Ulcerative gingivitis is painful and can make someone feel socially awkward, as it is usually accompanied by bad breath and an unsightly gumline. It is also dangerous, however. Dental infections can turn into septicemia, in which bacteria colonize the blood, and this can be a very serious medical condition. If someone with ulcerative gingivitis develops a fever or altered level of consciousness, she or he should be taken to a hospital for immediate treatment, as the patient may have septicemia.

The stages of periodontal disease, including gingivitis.
The stages of periodontal disease, including gingivitis.

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