Gingivitis is the inflammation of gums that is caused by a buildup of plaque and bacteria between the teeth and gums. Plaque that remains on the teeth, turns into a hard deposit called tartar that becomes trapped at the base of the tooth. Plaque and tartar irritate and inflame the gums causing redness, swelling, pain and sometimes even bleeding. Gingivitis is a common periodontal condition that can be effectively managed, however, left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease and possible tooth loss. Proper oral hygiene and regular dental examinations are essential in the prevention and early detection of gum disease.
Causes of Gingivitis
Although plaque buildup due to poor oral hygiene is the leading cause of gingivitis, other factors that may increase the risk of developing this condition include:
- Certain drugs or medication
- Viral or fungal infections
- Misaligned teeth
- Auto-immune disorders
- Poor nutrition
- Tobacco use
- Substance abuse
Hormonal changes, such as those related to pregnancy, menstrual cycles or the use of birth control pills or hormones, may increase the risk of gingivitis.
Symptoms of Gingivitis
Symptoms of gingivitis include gums that are red, inflamed and sore. Gums that bleed easily during brushing or flossing are a common symptom of gingivitis. Additional symptoms include:
- Receding gums
- Swollen gums
- Bad breath
If patients notice any signs and symptoms of gingivitis, they should schedule an appointment with their dentist. The sooner this condition is treated, the chances of reversing damage from gingivitis are increased.
Diagnosis of Gingivitis
Gingivitis is diagnosed by a complete oral examination of the teeth, gums, mouth and tongue. The dentist checks for plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth and for redness and swelling of the gums. Occasionally, dental X-rays may be taken to see if the gingivitis has spread to the supporting structures of the teeth.
Treatment of Gingivitis
The goal of treatment is to reduce inflammation. The dentist will perform a thorough cleaning to remove plaque and tartar. Any misaligned teeth may be repaired and if necessary, dental and orthodontic appliances may be replaced. The dentist may suggest an antibacterial mouth rinse for use at home. Bleeding and tenderness of the gums usually subsides within 1 or 2 weeks after the dental cleaning and continued oral care at home. Patients are encouraged to maintain proper oral hygiene at home to keep gums healthy and reduce the bacteria buildup that can cause plaque.
Prevention of Gingivitis
Plaque is the most common cause of gingivitis that can be prevented with proper dental hygiene that includes brushing and flossing teeth twice day. Refraining from smoking and eating a healthy diet can also help to prevent gingivitis. Professional dental visits and cleanings are recommended at least every 6 months. It is important to see a dentist promptly if experiencing the signs of gingivitis, to prevent more serious gum disease from occurring.
- Medline Plus
- National Institutes of Health
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
- U.S. National Library of Medicine