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What is Gingival Hypertrophy?

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  • Written By: Misty Wiser
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2016
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Gingival hypertrophy is the abnormal enlargement of the gums. The condition can be caused by medications, a systemic disease, poor oral hygiene, or a congenital disorder called occulodental syndrome. Many people with gingival hypertrophy experience bleeding from the gums and pain when eating. Gum enlargement needs to be evaluated by a dentist or physician to treat any underlying pathological causes.

The long-term build up of plaque around the teeth and gums is the leading cause of swollen gums. Poor oral hygiene allows bacteria to inflame the gum tissue. Dentures or partial dentures may irritate the delicate gum tissue, causing enlargement. If a dental appliance causes the swelling, it may need to be adjusted professionally.

Prescription medicines may have gingival hypertrophy as a side effect. Some of the medicines for the treatment of seizures as well as anti-convulsant drugs such as phenytoin, primidone, and topiramate are known to cause gingival enlargement. An immunosuppressant medication called ciclosporin can also cause gingival hypertrophy after taking it. Certain calcium channel blockers, namely nifidepine and verapamil, are also known to cause gum swelling. These oral side effects may subside after the medication is discontinued.

Natural changes in the body may cause gingival hypertrophy for a short time. Some women develop gingival hypertrophy during pregnancy. The swollen gums usually go back to the normal size after the woman gives birth. Adolescents may have enlarged gums during puberty, and it usually passes once the hormones circulating in their bodies even out.

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There are systemic diseases that may cause gingival hypertrophy. People with leukemia may notice that the gum tissue has swollen and become painful. Growths called neoplasms may be responsible for the enlargement of gum tissue. The neoplasms may be benign or indicative of a malignant cancer.

Treatment of gingival hypertrophy depends on the cause of the enlargement. In the case of poor hygiene and plaque buildup, a dental procedure called scaling will be performed to reduce the plaque on the teeth. The plaque is scraped away from the teeth with dental tools. If the inflammation has reached the roots of the teeth, a process called root planing is necessary. It is a delicate process that removes the plaque and tarter from below the gumline.

A surgical procedure called a gingivectomy may be needed when the enlarged gum tissue does not reduce in size after the dental scaling or root planing. The swollen gum is snipped to a normal size, or electrosurgery may be used to remove the tissue and cauterize the wound simultaneously. A putty will be placed over the treated gums to protect them while they heal. The healing process may take up to three weeks.

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