What Is Gingivitis? | Sioux City, IA
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Dona W. Prince, DDS

What Is Gingivitis?

  • By Dona Prince
  • 18 September, 2015

Most people are familiar with common dental issues like plaque and tartar, but gingivitis remains a mystery to many, despite being a focus in many toothpaste and mouthwash commercials. Find out what causes gingivitis, how to treat it, and the effects this condition can have on you.

Causes of Gingivitis


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Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, most often results from excessive plaque buildup on your teeth. Though plaque accumulates naturally as bacteria settles on your teeth, you must take care to remove it before it causes serious issues.

Other factors, like extended malnutrition, smoking, and hormonal changes during puberty or menopause can also cause gingivitis. Diseases like diabetes and cancer, family history of gingivitis, and reactions to certain medications can also cause this dental condition.

Signs of Gingivitis

Noticeably red or purple gums that appear puffy and are painful to the touch often indicate gingivitis. Visible blood that appears when brushing or flossing teeth, as well as bad breath and receding gums, are also typical signs of this condition.

How Dentists Treat Gingivitis


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Dentists typically diagnose gingivitis by measuring your gums and identifying inflammation, excessive plaque buildup, and tartar accumulation. Dentists may also take X-rays of your teeth to assess how far the condition has progressed. X-rays can help dentists diagnose advanced gingivitis and periodontitis if necessary.

After diagnosis, treatment begins with a plaque and tartar removal process called scaling. If a patient’s gingivitis is particularly advanced, this can be an uncomfortable procedure, so it’s best to begin the treatment process early on. After scaling, dentists prepare patients to care for their teeth properly at home by providing advice about appropriate brushing and hygiene techniques.

If a patient’s gingivitis requires additional scaling or professional cleaning, the dentist will schedule follow up visits as necessary. A dentist may also determine that a patient’s gingivitis is the result of a larger issue, such as misaligned teeth or poorly done dental work. In this case, a dentist will make recommendations for additional procedures.

How to Care for Gingivitis on Your Own

The easiest and best way for patients to care for gingivitis is by improving their oral hygiene. This includes brushing teeth at least twice a day and for longer periods of time. It’s best to use an electric toothbrush, since these devices provide more thorough cleaning than manual brushes can provide. Patients should also floss their teeth at least once a day and rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash when possible.

How Gingivitis Can Affect You

Though gingivitis on its own is considered a non-destructive condition, it can worsen and develop into periodontitis. Since this more advanced condition can cause tooth loss, it’s a condition best avoided. While laser gum treatments can address periodontitis, when this condition is left untreated, it’s linked to strokes and heart attacks. Other complications from gingivitis include infections in the jaw, abscesses in the gingiva, and even serious oral bacteria infections.

Gingivitis may first surface with unpleasant gum tenderness or bad breath, but it can escalate quickly. If you think you may be experiencing the early stages of gingivitis, be sure to consult with your dentist right away before it turns into a more serious condition.