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What Is Gingivitis?


Updated June 11, 2014

Question: What Is Gingivitis?

Many people often ignore the early signs of gum disease, known as gingivitis, simply because they do not know what gingivitis is.

Gum disease plagues 75% of adult Americans and has been connected to serious diseases such as heart disease and stroke. Learn how to recognize gingivitis along with ways to halt and prevent gingivitis from progressing into a more serious form of gum disease.

Answer: Gingivitis is a reversible form of gum disease. Affecting only the attached and free gingival tissue that surrounds your teeth, bacteria that invades the area below your gumline, known as the sulcus or periodontal pocket, causes gingivitis to develop and eventually manifest into periodontitis, if left untreated.

The early warning signs of gingivitis are often mistaken as normal occurrences one should expect when it comes to the mouth. Symptoms of gingivitis include:

The causes associate with gingivitis vary, but typically include:

  • Improper or infrequent brushing and flossing
  • Trapped plaque in hard to reach places, such as around the wisdom teeth, above and below orthodontic bands and brackets, or fixed appliances
  • Teeth that are crooked or overlap each other
  • Certain medications that cause xerostomia or gingival enlargement
  • Tobacco use
  • Conditions such as diabetes may cause gingivitis
  • Pregnancy and oral contraceptives

Even though you may recognize these early warning signs as gingivitis, it is important that you book an appointment with your dentist for a check up. Why? There is a fine line between gingivitis and periodontitis. It is important to note that gingivitis is a reversible condition that is treated with professional cleanings to remove plaque and calculus build up, along with regular home maintenance that may include a prescribed antibacterial mouth rinse known as chlorhexidine gluconate. Your dentist is able to confirm the extent of your gum disease and plan treatment accordingly. If left untreated or improperly treated, gingivitis will progress into periodontitis, which is irreversible and often leads to tooth loss.

Obtaining regular dental check ups will help keep gum disease under control or eliminated completely. If you are concerned about gingivitis, speak with your dentist or dental hygienist at your next dental appointment.


The American Dental Association. Periodontal (Gum) Diseases

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