Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease that most commonly occurs when bacteria in plaque (a sticky, colorless film that forms constantly in the mouth) builds up for a sustained period of time along and below the gumline. Accumulated plaque bacteria secrete toxins that irritate and inflame the gum tissue above where it attaches to the tooth. If plaque is left long enough, it can cause gum deterioration and more serious complications, like bone loss from around the tooth (periodontitis) and eventual tooth loss.
Gingivitis can occur at any age and throughout one’s lifetime.1 Discovered early it may be minor problem i.e. “incipient gingivitis”, or, if ignored, it may become more extensive and severe. Gingivitis can occur at localized sites around a single tooth or involve many or all teeth.
Gingivitis is reversible. It can be controlled and treated with good oral hygiene and regular professional cleaning. Your dentist or hygienist can identify gingivitis early on and provide you with the knowledge you need to efficiently remove plaque on an ongoing basis and prevent any further problem.
You can prevent gingivitis by staying on top of your oral hygiene and being aware of the common causes and risk factors of this mild form of gum disease.
Gingivitis causes and risk factors
Certain local and systemic factors can increase your risk for gingivitis and affect the severity and extent of the problem, should it occur. If any of these factors apply to you, we recommend speaking with your dentist about the extra measures you can take to protect your mouth and keep it healthy2:
It’s natural to have some level of plaque on your teeth. However, when this plaque remains undisturbed for days or weeks at a time, signs and symptoms of gingivitis may occur. Gingivitis is often a warning that more serious periodontitis may occur unless you take action to improve your gum health. If you are worried that you may have gingivitis, know that it can easily be treated, reversed, and prevented on your own or with the help of your dentist or hygienist.
Early diagnosis and care are key in successfully keeping your teeth and gums healthy for a lifetime. To prevent gingivitis and periodontitis, regularly brush and floss your teeth; if you smoke -stop; eat a healthy, balanced diet; and check in with your dentist and hygienist for regular exams, cleanings and oral care advice. Know your risk factors for gum diseases and be sure to reach out to your dentist if you have any concerns.
Looking for more information? Learn more about general oral health:
Pari A, Llango P, Subbareddy V. et.al. Gingival Diseases in Childhood – A Review. J Clin Diagn Res. 2014 Oct; 8(10): ZE01–ZE04.
Murakami S, Mealey BL, Marioti A, Chapple ILC. Dental plaque–induced gingival conditions. JPeriodontol. 2018;89(Suppl 1):S17–S27. https://aap.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/JPER.17-0095
NIH. “Periodontal (Gum) Disease - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments.” National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, 2013, www.nidcr.nih.gov/sites/default/files/2017-09/periodontal-disease_0.pdf.
Eke PI, Dye BA, Wei L, et al. Prevalence of Periodontitis in Adults in the United States: 2009 and 2010. Journal of Dental Research 2012; 91(10):914–20
CDC. “Smoking, Gum Disease, and Tooth Loss.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 23 Mar. 2020, www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/periodontal-gum-disease.html#one.
Chapple ILC, Mealey BL, Van Dyke TE. Et.al. Periodontal health and gingival diseases and conditions on an intact and reduced periodontium: Consensus report of Workshop 1 of the 2017 World Workshop on the Classification of Periodontal and Peri-implant Diseases and Conditions. Periodontal. 2018;89(Suppl 1):S74–S84.