What is Gingivitis? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

What is Gingivitis? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments What is Gingivitis? What Causes Gingivitis? Gingivitis Signs and Symptoms Gingivitis Treatment and Prevention Questions About Gingivitis

What is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is a form of gum disease that happens when plaque, a naturally-occurring sticky film containing bacteria, builds up on teeth and causes the inflammation of the surrounding gum tissue. Plaque produces toxins that irritate the gums. This can cause the gums to become inflamed, making them red or puffy, or causing them to bleed. This harmful plaque bacteria can even lead to issues beyond gingivitis like weakened tooth enamel. Even with regular brushing, it's important to make sure you’re taking care of your gum line, because a healthy mouth starts there.

Gingivitis occurs in 3 out of 4 of Americans during their lifetime, but with proper dental care early on, it’s easily reversed. If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into a more severe form of gum disease, known as periodontitis, which is a major cause of tooth loss in adults.

75 percent of americans will experience gum disease

What Causes Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is caused by the buildup of plaque–– a naturally-occurring sticky film containing bacteria – on the teeth and gums. The bacteria found in plaque produce toxins that can irritate the gums and cause them to become red, inflamed, puffy, and may even lead to bleeding. (Gingivitis is actually the number one cause of bleeding gums in adults).

Other factors might increase your risk of gingivitis. If some of the factors below apply to you, pay extra attention to your teeth and gum line and talk to your dentist and hygienist about what you can do to keep your mouth healthy.

  • Smoking/tobacco use is one of the greatest risk factors associated with gum disease and can lower the chances for successful treatment. Research shows that smokers are seven times more likely to suffer from gum disease than people who don’t smoke.
  • Poor oral hygiene, such as not brushing or flossing regularly is one of several easily avoided causes of gingivitis.
  • Not fully removing plaque. You may be missing the plaque found around the gum line, even if the plaque on your teeth has been removed. Be sure to floss regularly and look for a toothpaste like Crest Gum Detoxify or Crest Gum and Enamel Repair that can reach plaque around the gum line.
  • Stressis another one of many causes of gingivitis. Constant stress can weaken your immune system and negatively impact your ability to fight infection, including gum disease.
  • Hormonal changes including puberty, pregnancy, menopause, and monthly menstruation cause increased sensitivity and inflammation in your gums. Take extra care of your teeth and gums during these physiological changes to prevent gum disease.
  • Poor nutrition deprives the body of important nutrients and makes it more difficult for the body to fight infection, including gum disease.
  • Medications for many conditions can affect oral health. Tell your dentist or hygienist if you take any prescription or over-the-counter medications.
  • Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cancer, and HIV, impair the body’s ability to fight infection, including gum disease. Tell your dentist and hygienist if you have any medical conditions.

Since eliminating plaque is critical in preventing gingivitis, remember to use an anti-gingivitis toothpaste and mouthwash like this collection from Crest that is specially formulated for your gums. and focus on a great oral health routine that includes brushing for 2 minutes twice a day, and flossing at least once a day.

Common Causes and Symptoms of Gingivitis


Gingivitis Signs and Symptoms

Because gingivitis doesn’t often cause pain, many people don’t know they have it. In fact, as many as 75% of all Americans will experience some degree of gingivitis during their lifetime. That’s why it’s important not only to know what to look for, but also to see your dentist and hygienist regularly for cleanings and checkups.

Here are some gingivitis symptoms to watch out for:

  • Red, puffy gums.
  • Bleeding gums, especially when you brush or floss.
  • Sore gums that won’t go away.
  • Tooth pain or sensitivity. When gums pull away from teeth, teeth are more exposed and sensitive to hot and cold foods or beverages.
  • Bad breath that won’t go away. Plaque contains millions of bacteria that produce foul-smelling waste products.
  • Loose teeth or changes in the way your teeth fit when you bite down. This could be an advanced gum disease, called periodontitis.

Gingivitis Treatment and Prevention

If you have gingivitis or think you might have gingivitis, we understand that you might have some anxiety around what to do about it. But don’t worry; with the help of your dentist, hygienist and Crest, gingivitis is treatable and preventable. We’ve outlined key areas to look for to get the best anti-gingivitis toothpaste and the best anti-gingivitis mouthwash.

Treating and preventing gingivitis is all about eliminating as much plaque from your teeth and gums as possible. The best way to treat it is to catch it early. Make a dental appointment as soon as possible. Your hygienist will remove plaque or tartar (plaque that has hardened) 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.

Steps to Help Prevent and Treat Gingivitis:

  • Use an anti-gingivitis toothpaste: Your toothpaste should be able to remove plaque from both your teeth and around your gum line. Use a toothpaste like Crest Gum Detoxify Deep Clean, which neutralizes plaque bacteria around the gum line and is clinically proven to give you healthier gums.
  • Use an anti-gingivitis mouthwash. Crest Gum Care Mouthwash, is a minty, alcohol-free mouthwash that neutralizes harmful plaque bacteria buildup and reduces bleeding gums.
  • Brush your teeth and gums for at least 2 minutes, at least 2 times a day.
  • Floss at least once a day: Oral-B Glide® PRO-HEALTH® Clinical Protection Floss slides easily between teeth and below the gum line to remove gingivitis-causing plaque.
  • Replace your toothbrush every 3 months: Worn-out bristles remove less plaque.
  • If you have sore gums after flossing or brushing, or notice bleeding, don’t stop brushing or flossing. Use a toothbrush with soft bristles so you don’t hurt your gums. Think about upgrading to an Oral-B® Black 7000 electric toothbrush which removes 100% more plaque than a regular toothbrush. If you notice bleeding regularly, see your dentist.
  • Check your gums in the mirror often for changes in color or texture. If their appearance changes, see your dentist and hygienist. See gum disease pictures.
  • You may want to consider the breakthrough daily 2-step system, Crest Gum Detoxify + Whitening, which provides effective gingivitis protection, in addition to noticeable whitening benefits*.
  • Cut back on foods that are high in sugar. Sugar promotes the growth of gingivitis-causing plaque.

*At 3 weeks of treatment.

Questions About Gingivitis

Q: Is gingivitis reversible?

A: Fortunately, gingivitis can usually be reversed with the help of your dentist, hygienist, Crest anti-gingivitis oral care products, and improvements in your personal oral hygiene.


  3. 2013 H&P Data

2013 H&P Data – 67% either have bleeding gums from brush or floss.

2008 ADA/Crest National Public Opinion Survey


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