What is Gingivitis? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease appearing as an inflammation of the gumline that, if left untreated, can progress to the point of being detrimental to the strength and health of the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth. The direct cause of gingivitis is plaque, which builds up on your teeth due to improper brushing after meals. Plaque is a soft, sticky, colorless film of bacteria that forms on the teeth and gums through a combination of leftover food particles and saliva.

What causes gingivitis?

The most common cause of gingivitis is the accumulation of bacterial plaque between and around the teeth. The plaque triggers an immune response, which, in turn, can eventually lead to the destruction of gingival, or gum, tissue. It may also, eventually, lead to further complications, including the loss of teeth.

These bacteria might help protect the mouth from the colonization of harmful microorganisms, but dental plaque can also cause tooth decay, and periodontal problems such as gingivitis and chronic periodontitis, a gum infection.

Plaque and tartar eventually irritate the gums, causing gum inflammation around the base of the teeth. This means that the gums might easily bleed.

Other causes and risk factors

Changes in hormones: This may occur during pubertymenopause, the menstrual cycle, and pregnancy. The gingiva might become more sensitive, raising the risk of inflammation.

Some diseases: Cancer, diabetes, and HIV .

Drugs: Oral health may be affected by some medications, especially if saliva flow is reduced. Dilantin, an anticonvulsant, and some anti-angina medications can cause abnormal growth of gum tissue.

Smoking: Regular smokers more commonly develop gingivitis, compared with non-smokers.

Age: The risk of gingivitis increases with age.

Family history: Those whose parent or parents have had gingivitis have a higher risk of developing it too.

Signs and symptoms of gingivitis

In mild cases of gingivitis, there may be no discomfort or noticeable symptoms.

Signs and symptoms of gingivitis might include:

  • bright red or purple gums
  • tender gums that may be painful to the touch
  • bleeding from the gums when brushing or flossing
  • halitosis, or bad breath
  • inflammation, or swollen gums
  • receding gums
  • soft gums


A dentist or oral hygienist will check for symptoms, such as plaque and tartar in the oral cavity.

Checking for signs of periodontitis may also be recommended. This may be done by X-ray or periodontal probing, using an instrument that measures pocket depths around a tooth.

treatment of gingivitis

You must practice proper oral hygiene to treat gingivitis. You should also cut back on any smoking, if you smoke, and manage your diabetes. Other treatments include:

  • deep cleaning your teeth
  • antibiotic medications
  • surgery

Cleaning teeth

There are several techniques that can be used to deep clean your teeth without surgery. They all remove plaque and tarter to prevent gum irritation:

  • Scaling removes tartar from above and below the gum line.
  • Root planing smooths rough spots and removes plaque and tartar from the root surface.
  • Lasers may remove tartar with less pain and bleeding than scaling and root planing.


A number of medications can be used to treat gum disease:

  • Antiseptic mouthwash 
  • Timed-release antiseptic chips 
  • Antibiotic microspheres 
  • Oral antibiotics
  • Doxycycline
  • Flap surgery 
  • Bone and tissue grafts


How can gingivitis be prevented?

Proper and consistent oral hygiene can prevent gum disease. This includes:

  • visiting the dentist regularly
  • brushing your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste
  • flossing your teeth every day

Eating a balanced diet is also important to achieving and maintaining good dental health.


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