Gingivitis is a form of gum (periodontal) disease that causes redness, soreness, and swelling (inflammation) of your gums.


The most common cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene. A sticky substance made of bacteria, mucus, and food particles (plaque), is deposited on the exposed part of teeth. As plaque builds up, it reacts with the saliva in your mouth to form something called tartar. Tartar is a hard deposit that becomes trapped around the base of the tooth. Plaque and tartar irritate the gums, leading to the formation of gingivitis. Other factors that increase your risk for gingivitis include:

  • Tobacco use.

  • Diabetes.

  • Older age.

  • Certain medications.

  • Certain viral or fungal infections.

  • Dry mouth.

  • Hormonal changes such as during pregnancy.

  • Poor nutrition.

  • Substance abuse.

  • Poor fitting dental restorations or appliances.


You may notice inflammation of the soft tissue (gingiva) around the teeth. When these tissues become inflamed, they bleed easily, especially during flossing or brushing. The gums may also be:

  • Tender to the touch.

  • Bright red, purple red, or have a shiny appearance.

  • Swollen.

  • Wearing away from the teeth (receding), which exposes more of the tooth.

Bad breath is often present. Continued infection around teeth can eventually cause cavities and loosen teeth. This may lead to eventual tooth loss.


A medical and dental history will be taken. Your mouth, teeth, and gums will be examined. Your dentist will look for soft, swollen purple-red, irritated gums. There may be deposits of plaque and tartar at the base of the teeth. Your gums will be looked at for the degree of redness, puffiness, and bleeding tendencies. Your dentist will see if any of the teeth are loose. X-rays may be taken to see if the inflammation has spread to the supporting structures of the teeth.


The goal is to reduce and reverse the inflammation. Proper treatment can usually reverse the symptoms of gingivitis and prevent further progression of the disease. Have your teeth cleaned. During the cleaning, all plaque and tartar will be removed. Instruction for proper home care will be given. You will need regular professional cleanings and check-ups in the future.


  • Brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least once per day. When flossing, it is best to floss first then brush.

  • Limit sugar between meals and maintain a well-balanced diet. 

  • Even the best dental hygiene will not prevent plaque from developing. It is necessary for you to see your dentist on a regular basis for cleaning and regular checkups.

  • Your dentist can recommend proper oral hygiene and mouth care and suggest special toothpastes or mouth rinses.

  • Stop smoking.


  • You have painful, reddened tissue around your teeth, or you have puffy swollen gums.

  • You have difficulty chewing.

  • You notice any loose or infected teeth.

  • You have swollen glands.

  • Your gums bleed easily when you brush your teeth or are very tender to the touch.