Gingivitis is a mild, early form of gum disease, also called periodontal disease. Gingivitis happens when bacteria infect the gums, often making them swollen, red and quick to bleed.
You can successfully manage gingivitis, especially with the help of a dentist. But left untreated, the condition can lead to periodontitis , a more severe type of gum disease.
Gingivitis is very common. Almost half of all adults older than 30 have some kind of gum disease.
Gum disease is more likely to occur in:
Everyone has bacteria in their mouths. Most bacteria are normal, natural and safe. But a few types of bacteria can create plaque, a sticky, almost invisible film on the teeth.
If you don’t clean your teeth regularly and thoroughly, the bacteria and plaque can cause an infection where your teeth meet your gums. That is gingivitis.
Plaque eventually hardens and becomes tartar, which is harder to remove. Tartar can trap more bacteria, worsening gingivitis.
You may face a higher risk of developing gingivitis if you:
Also, some prescription and over-the-counter medications can reduce the flow of saliva (spit). Saliva helps keep the mouth clean, so this change may contribute to gingivitis. Examples of such medications include:
What are the symptoms of gingivitis?
Gingivitis often doesn’t cause any symptoms, so you may have it and not know it. As the condition worsens over time, you may develop:
If you have one or more of the symptoms of gingivitis, call your dentist. Your dentist may examine you at your next checkup or make a special appointment. It depends on how long you’ve had symptoms and how severe they are.
If you have symptoms of gingivitis, you should see a dentist for a checkup. Your dentist will inspect your mouth for:
If your dentist suspects gum disease, X-rays can show if it has affected the bones underneath. Your dentist may also refer you to a periodontist, a gum disease specialist.
Treatment for gingivitis aims to control the infection and restore healthy teeth and gums. Your dentist or periodontist will thoroughly clean your teeth to remove harmful bacteria, plaque and tartar. Additional treatments include:
You can prevent gingivitis with good oral hygiene:
If people in your family have gum disease, you may face a greater risk of developing it. You may need more checkups and cleanings to prevent gum disease.
The earlier you catch gum disease, the more you can control it. Gingivitis is reversible if you have a checkup and cleaning, but it can come back. You must take good care of your teeth and gums between office visits.
If you don’t treat gingivitis, it can turn into more serious gum disease. Known as periodontitis, this gum disease damages the structures that keep teeth anchored.
Good oral hygiene is the key to preventing gingivitis:
What questions should I ask my dentist about gingivitis prevention?
Consider asking your dentist the following questions:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Everyone’s mouth is full of bacteria. Good oral hygiene can stop bacteria from causing gingivitis, the first stage of gum disease. If you find and treat gingivitis early, you can avoid permanent damage to your teeth and gums. See a dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups, not just when you have a toothache or other dental problem.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 11/17/2020