Written by the Healthline Editorial Team | Published on November 24, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on November 24, 2014

What Is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is a common periodontal disease where gums become inflamed, tender, and swollen. Symptoms of gingivitis include:

  • bleeding or swollen gums
  • redness in the gums
  • gum tenderness
  • mouth sores
  • bad breath
  • gums with a shiny appearance

Gingivitis is often so mild and painless that you may not even notice it. However, the condition can lead to much more serious periodontal diseases later on. Any sign of a potential problem should be addressed with your dentist. The sooner your dentist diagnoses gingivitis, the better your chances are of reversing any damage done to your gums and teeth.

Causes and Risk Factors

Gingivitis is caused by plaque deposits in the mouth. Plaque builds up if you don’t brush or floss your teeth regularly. A combination of food debris, mucus, bacteria, and plaque also causes tooth decay and can lead to other tooth and gum problems as well. Conditions or other factors that increase the risk of gingivitis include:

  • diabetes
  • common cold and flu
  • pregnancy
  • use of birth control pills
  • other dental problems

Prevention and Treatment Options

Gingivitis can be avoided through proper oral hygiene like brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash.Anti-plaque or anti-tartar toothpastes help in keeping plaque deposits from causing gingivitis.

Professional teeth cleanings help decrease the risk of gingivitis. Following the cleaning, gums may be more sensitive and inflamed. That normally subsides in a few weeks. Antiseptic mouthwash or rinsing with warm salt water aids in reducing inflammation.

Many people have a mild form of gingivitis with few adverse health effects. However, the disease can lead to periodontitis if left untreated. Periodontitis is a serious gum disease that can result in tooth loss or even an increased risk of stroke or heart attack. Pregnant women should be extra careful because periodontitis increases their risks of delivering a baby prematurely.

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