Gingivitis is a type of gum disease with fairly mild symptoms that, if left untreated, can lead to the type of gum disease that can cause bone and tooth loss.


The most common cause of gingivitis is plaque buildup on the teeth. Plaque forms in a sticky coating on your teeth from bacteria left behind after you eat. If plaque stays on the teeth too long it starts to harden into tartar, which is much more difficult to remove. The bacteria buildup under the hardened tartar can irritate the gums. The irritated gums become swollen and sensitive, which causes them to develop gingivitis.


One of the most common symptoms of gingivitis is gums that bleed easily when you brush or floss. The gums often don't feel painful or tender, but you'll notice pink or red blood on your toothbrush. 

Healthy gums should be tight against the teeth, firm to the touch, and light pink in color. If your gums appear red and swollen, it could be a symptom of gingivitis or gum disease. If your gums feel tender to the touch or appear to be sliding down over your teeth, and revealing more of your tooth's surface above the gumline, your dentist should evaluate you for gingivitis.


The most common treatment for gingivitis is a thorough professional cleaning from a dentist. These cleanings usually take much longer than a typical maintenance teeth cleaning. Your dentist will use a process called scaling to remove the hardened tartar and bacteria around and under your gums.

Scaling is often combined with root planning. Root planning smooths out the roots, which helps protect them from further bacterial buildup. This process also removes the bacteria produced by swollen and irritated gums.


The best thing you can do to keep your gums and your teeth healthy is to practice good oral hygiene habits. Brush and floss your teeth thoroughly at least twice every day. Make sure to brush in gentle, circular motions around your gums each time you brush. 

Use a preventative gingivitis mouthwash for extra protection. Choose one without alcohol as an ingredient if possible. Alcohol dries the mouth, which isn't good for your overall oral health.

Minimize your consumption of sugar as much as possible. Sugar leaves a lot of bacteria that cause plaque behind on your teeth. Smoking or chewing tobacco also significantly increases your risk of gingivitis, so stopping tobacco use can lower your risk.

It's important to keep up with your regular preventative dental appointments to minimize your risk of gingivitis and other diseases or problems. 

Schedule an appointment with your dentist at least once every six months to check for gingivitis and other dental health problems.