What is gingivitis?

What is gingivitis? 1

Gingivitis is an early form of gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, in which plaque builds up on the teeth and causes inflammation of the surrounding gum tissue, often making them tender, swollen, red, and quick to bleed. You can successfully manage and treat gingivitis over time, especially with the help of a dentist. However, if left untreated, the condition can lead to a more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis, which can result in tooth loss and considerable oral health issues down the road. 


What causes gingivitis? 

Everyone has millions of bacteria in their mouths – it’s actually normal! Most of these bacteria are considered natural and safe. However, gingivitis occurs when there is a buildup of a sticky film containing harmful bacteria that produce toxins and irritate the surrounding gum tissue. This sticky film is referred to as plaque, and when plaque is allowed to build up and sit too long on the teeth and gums, the bacteria can infect the gums. There are also a number of other factors that may increase your risk of gingivitis. Learn more about the causes of gingivitis here


What are the signs and symptoms of gingivitis? 2

Gingivitis doesn’t always cause pain, and many people don’t realize they have the condition. As symptoms worsen over time, you may start to experience:

  • Bleeding gums (metallic or altered taste)
  • Puffiness/swelling of gums 
  • Pain or soreness
  • Bad breath 

Gingivitis may be localized to only a few teeth or could be generalized to all or many teeth. Because it doesn’t have clear-cut symptoms, it’s important to know what signs to look for and to visit your dentist regularly for checkups. 


How do you diagnose and treat gingivitis? 3

Gingivitis is easily diagnosable and treatable, especially with the help of a dentist. It is recommended that you visit the dentist at least once a year so they can look at the state of your gums and see if you are at risk. If your dentist suspects gum disease, they will inspect your mouth for: 

  • Bleeding 
  • Loose teeth
  • Gums that are pulling away from the teeth
  • Signs of infection like redness or swelling

Treatment for gingivitis is all about eliminating as much plaque from your gums and teeth as possible on a daily basis. Your dentist or hygienist will thoroughly clean your teeth to remove any plaque, stains, and tartar. 


FAQs on gingivitis

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about gingivitis.

The average time it takes for gingivitis to clear up is around 10 to 14 days after starting a proper oral healthcare routine. However, there are other factors that can shorten or extend your timeline, such as severity of gingivitis, how well you follow oral healthcare guidelines, and getting a professional dental cleaning.  

Some times, but not always.  Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can cause red, swollen gums that may be tender and bleed easily when brushed. Many people don’t know they have gingivitis or even delay treatment because they don’t generally feel any pain. But if gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress to a more severe form of periodontal disease that may become painful. 

During the early stages of gingivitis, you may start to notice gum inflammation in just a few days after neglecting or not properly following your oral hygiene routine. However, the signs of generalized gingivitis become more noticeable within two to three weeks. At this stage, if you still leave it untreated, it could then begin progressing to a more severe form of periodontal disease called periodontitis.

Gingivitis refers to the inflammation of the gums, which occurs because of plaque buildup on the surface of your teeth. In most cases, gingivitis is a non-destructive type of gum disease, but left untreated can progress to periodontitis, which is more serious and can lead to loss of teeth. 

Additional resources

Looking for more information? Learn more about gum disease:

If you have any other questions, contact your local Delta Dental dentists here



Gingivitis. (n.d.). Retrieved April 16, 2021, from https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/g/gingivitis

Gingivitis and PERIODONTITIS: Overview. (2020, February 27). Retrieved April 16, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279593/

Gingivitis: What It Is, Causes, Diagnosis. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10950-gingivitis-and-periodontal-disease-gum-disease

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