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Disease: Gingivitis Gingivitis
Category: Mouth and teeth diseases
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Disease Definition:

A very common and mild form of gum (periodontal) disease is called gingivitis, which causes swelling and inflammation of the gums. Someone may not be aware that they have gingivitis if their condition is mild. However, because this condition could lead to much more serious gum diseases, they should take gingivitis seriously and get it treated.


It is possible that someone may have gingivitis in case their gums are swollen and bleed when brushing their teeth. Poor oral hygiene is the most common cause of gingivitis. In order to help prevent gingivitis, a person should develop good oral health habits, including daily brushing and flossing.

Work Group:

Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes


Some of the signs and symptoms of gingivitis include:


  • Bad breath
  • Soft gums
  • Swollen gums
  • Occasionally, tender gums
  • A change in the color of the gums, from a healthy pink to dusky red
  • Gums that bleed easily when brushing or flossing


As mentioned before, a person can have gingivitis without even knowing it because this condition is seldom painful. When the bristles of someone’s toothbrush become pink, which is a sign that their gums are bleeding with just slight pressure, they may realize that something is wrong.


Healthy gums are firm and pale pink. A person should see a dentist in case their gums are puffy, dusky red and bleed easily. In order to reverse the damage of gingivitis and its progression to more serious problems, prompt care should be sought.


This condition starts with plaque, which is an invisible and sticky film that is composed mainly of bacteria. When starches and sugars in food interact with bacteria that is normally found in the mouth, plaque forms. In order to remove plaque, the teeth should be brushed. However, within 24 hours, plaque usually reforms.


When plaque stays on someone’s teeth for more than two or three days, it could harden under the gumline into tartar (calculus). This tartar acts as a reservoir for bacteria and makes plaque more difficult to remove. Tartar usually doesn't go away with brushing and flossing; professional dental cleaning is required in order to remove tartar. 


As long as plaque and tartar stay on someone’s teeth, their gingiva, which is the part of the gum around the base of the teeth, will be irritated. The gums become swollen and bleed easily over time.



Periodontitis, which is a much more serious form of gum disease, could be caused by untreated gingivitis. Periodontitis can increase a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke. This disease could also cause tooth loss. Women with healthy gums are much less likely to give birth to premature babies than are women with periodontitis.


Some of the treatments that could be effective for this disease include:


  • A thorough dental cleaning
  • Flossing
  • Brushing
  • If necessary, fixing dental restorations
  • Antiseptic mouth rinse


Treatment of gingivitis will probably start with thoroughly cleaning the person’s teeth. In case the gums are already sensitive or if the person has extensive plaque and tartar buildup, cleaning could be quite uncomfortable. In order to clear away bacteria, using an antiseptic mouth rinse may also be recommended. The dentist may review the person’s brushing and flossing techniques in order to make sure that they are doing it correctly.


Removing plaque is more difficult in case the person has misaligned teeth and poorly fitting crowns, bridges or other dental restorations. They may be recommended fixing these problems as well in case they are contributing to the ginginvitis.


Usually, after a professional cleaning, gingivitis clears up, as long as the person continues following a program of good oral hygiene at home. They will probably see the return of pink and healthy gum tissue within days or weeks in case they are consistent with their dental hygiene. In order to make sure that gum problems don't return, good oral hygiene should be practiced for life. 


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