Gingivitis is a common and mild form of gum disease (periodontal disease) that causes gums to become swollen and bleed easily. Gingivitis is usually caused by plaque, a sticky film of food debris, bacteria, and saliva. Plaque begins to form on teeth within 24 hours after eating. If plaque is not removed, it can harden and turn into tartar (calculus). Once tartar forms, it is very difficult to remove without professional cleaning.

If gingivitis is not treated, it can lead to periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease that can eventually lead to tooth loss. However, gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.

Symptoms of Gingivitis include:

  1. Swollen gums
  2. Red gums
  3. Bleeding gums (during brushing or flossing)
  4. Bad breath

If you have any of these symptoms, see your dentist or dental hygienist for an evaluation.

Causes of Gingivitis:

The main cause of gingivitis is plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth. Plaque can form even if you brush and floss regularly. If not removed, plaque will turn into tartar (calculus), which is a hard deposit that can only be removed by a dentist or dental hygienist.

  • Hormonal changes in girls and women, which can make gums more sensitive and prone to bleeding
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Crooked teeth that are difficult to clean properly
  • Poorly fitting dental appliances, such as braces or bridges
  • Certain medications, such as steroids, some types of anticonvulsants, calcium channel blockers, and immunosuppressants
  • A lack of vitamin C

Left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease that can damage the soft tissue and bone supporting your teeth. Periodontitis can eventually lead to tooth loss.

Treatment of Gingivitis includes:

Professional teeth cleaning (scaling and root planing) to remove plaque and tartar below the gumline

  • Good oral home care, including brushing twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and using an interdental cleaner (such as a floss pick or interdental brush) at least once a day, Quit smoking, Limit sugary snacks and drinks.
  • See your dentist or dental hygienist regularly for checkups and cleanings.
  • If you have gingivitis, your gum tissue is likely to bleed when you brush or floss. This is because the gum tissue is inflamed and sensitive. Be sure to brush and floss gently to avoid irritating your gums further.


As we have seen, gingivitis is a serious problem that can lead to other more complicated dental issues. It is important to take care of your teeth and gums to prevent this condition from developing. There are many ways to treat and prevent gingivitis, so talk to your dentist about the best plan for you.