The Importance of Gingivitis

Gingivitis is looked upon by many dentists as a condition of little importance. They fail to realize that gingivitis, with its accompanying infection and probable consequent bodily ailments, is a menace to the health of the people. Apart from causing inefficiency in mastication and general metabolic changes acute gingivitis may result in a secondary infection of the throat and lungs.


This especially the case if, for any reason, a general anesthetic has to be administered. Dr. R.M. Kirkpatrick, Dental Research Scholar of the University of Sydney, draws attention to these considerations in a paper published in The Dental Journal of Australia.


Any unhealthy condition of the gingival trough, even if it does not cause pain or act as a focus of infection, prevents the full and proper function of the teeth in mastication, and nullifies the hygienic action of the tongue and cheeks. Insufficient mastication leads to a train of digestive troubles which in turn reflect on the general health in an undesirable manner. Usually, in cases of gingivitis, an immediate cause, such as an invasion by micro-organisms, appear evident. The micro-organisms, however, are usually found to be but a secondary etiological factor, since the organisms, although present, may not cause any clinical symptoms of gingivitis.


Dr. Kirkpatrick deals with the etiology of gingivitis under two heads; (a) systemic factors; (b) local factors. It is not definitely know how systemic factors influence the gingiva, but such conditions as blood dyscrasias, scurvy and diabetes are generally considered to affect the gingiva deleteriously. He intends to publish experimental results dealing with systemic factors later.


The local causative factors in gingivitis may be considered to be (1) mechanical irritants and local abnormalities; (2) disuse; (3) trauma; (4) infections. The writer’s remarks in regard to diet are of particular interest. It is distinctly a wrong type of diet whereby only soft foods are eaten which do not stimulate and massage the gums during mastication, as would crisp, cellular foods. In old age it is usually found that insufficient wear has occurred upon the occlusal surfaces of the teeth, and that inflamed gingiva are present. This means that the teeth are not used sufficiently in everyday life, or that the consistency of the food eaten is such that too little wear results from its mastication.


The bad habit acquired in early life of eating only soft or liquid foods on which little masticatory effort is required, is rarely overcome. The proper art of mastication not having been learned in early life is not usually acquired later. Insufficient use of the teeth results in the jaws not being properly developed, with consequent crowding and malposition of the teeth. Deficient wear of the teeth is accompanies by degeneration of the supporting calcified tissues.




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