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Gingivitis is a common and mild form of gum disease that causes irritation, redness and swelling (inflammation) of your gingiva, the part of your gum around the base of your teeth. It's important to take gingivitis seriously and treat it promptly. Gingivitis can lead to much more serious gum disease called periodontitis and tooth loss. The most common cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene. Good oral health habits, such as brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily and getting regular dental check- ups, can help prevent and reverse gingivitis.

SYMPTOMS Healthy gums are firm and pale pink and fitted tightly around the teeth. Signs and symptoms of gingivitis include:

  • Swollen or puffy gums

  • Dusky red or dark red gums

  • Gums that bleed easily when you brush or floss

  • Bad breath

  • Receding gums

  • Tender gums

CAUSES The most common cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene that encourages plaque to form on teeth, causing inflammation of the surrounding gum tissues. Here's how plaque can lead to gingivitis: Plaque forms on your teeth. Plaque is an invisible, sticky film composed mainly of bacteria that forms on your teeth when starches and sugars in food interact with bacteria normally found in your mouth. Plaque requires daily removal because it re-forms quickly. Plaque turns into tartar. Plaque that stays on your teeth can harden under your gum line into tartar which collects bacteria. Tartar makes plaque more difficult to remove, creates a protective shield for bacteria and causes irritation along the gum line. It requires professional dental cleaning to remove tartar.

Gingiva becomes inflamed. The longer that plaque and tartar remain on your teeth, the more they irritate the gingiva, the part of your gum around the base of your teeth, causing inflammation. In time, your gums become swollen and bleed easily. Tooth decay (dental caries) also may result. If not treated, gingivitis can advance to periodontitis and eventual tooth loss. Risk factors Gingivitis is common, and anyone can develop it. Factors that can increase your risk of gingivitis include:

  • Poor oral care habits

  • Smoking tobacco

  • Old age

  • Dry mouth

  • Poor nutrition, including vitamin C deficiency

  • Dental restorations that do not fit properly or crooked teeth that are difficult to clean

  • Conditions that decrease immunity such as leukaemia, HIV/AIDS or cancer treatment.

  • Hormonal changes, such as those related to pregnancy, menstrual cycle or use of birth control pill

  • Genetics

  • Medical conditions such as certain viral and fungal infections

COMPLICATIONS Untreated gingivitis can progress to gum disease that spreads to underlying tissue and bone (periodontitis), a much more serious condition that can lead to tooth loss. Chronic gingiva inflammation has been thought to be associated with some systemic diseases such as respiratory disease, diabetes, coronary artery disease, stroke and rheumatoid arthritis. Some research suggests that the bacteria responsible for periodontitis can enter your bloodstream through gum tissue, possibly affecting your heart, lungs and other parts of your body.


  • Good oral hygiene. That means brushing your teeth for two minutes at least twice daily in the morning and before going to bed and flossing at least once a day. Better yet, brush after every meal or snack or as your dentist recommends. Flossing before you brush allows you to clean away the loosened food particles and bacteria.

  • Regular dental visits. See your dentist regularly for cleanings, usually every six to 12 months. If you have risk factors that increase your chance of developing periodontitis such as having dry mouth, taking certain medications or smoking you may need professional cleaning more often. Annual dental X-rays can help identify diseases that are not seen by a visual dental examination and monitor for changes in your dental health.

  • Good health practices. Practices such as healthy eating and managing blood sugar if you have diabetes also are important to maintain gum health.

  • Treating and preventing gingivitis is all about eliminating as much plaque from your teeth and gums as possible. Make a dental appointments often. Your dentist will remove plaque that has hardened or tartar from your teeth with special tools. Tartar can only be removed by a dental professional, so using oral care items rated for plaque removal helps reduce the amount of tartar needing removal during your dental visit.


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