Gingivitis symptoms, causes and treatment

Gingivitis is a gum condition that is characterized by inflammation and bleeding due to a bacterial infection. It can lead to periodontitis, a more severe disease if left untreated.

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This oral condition usually happens because of bacteria or plaque, builds up on your teeth. Although gingivitis is considered as non-destructive, dental infections can add up and lead to tooth loss in adults. 

Often, mild cases are resolved even without the patient knowing about it. Good oral hygiene, like more frequent or more prolonged brushing and flossing, helps manage this condition. More so, using antiseptic mouthwash will help treat this oral health problem.  

Causes of Gingivitis

Several theories exist on how gingivitis develops and its causes. However, the exact reason for this oral problem is still unconfirmed. Here are some theories on its causes:

Accumulated plaque in between teeth

Gingivitis develops when there is a buildup of bacteria between the teeth. But it is not only the plaque that causes gingivitis. A lot of people have plaque buildup, but all people with plaque have gingivitis.

Underlying Illness

In some cases, a person with an underlying health condition and weak immune system are more susceptible to developing gingivitis and other oral health issues. People with diabetes and other immune diseases have a reduced ability to fight bacteria in the gums. More so, those who smoke, use tobacco, or have substance abuse problems are also predisposed to developing oral health problems such as gingivitis. 

Hormonal Changes

In some cases, hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and steroid medication causes a weakened immunity in the mouth. Thus the gums become prone to bacterial infection.

Local Factors

An individual’s susceptibility to gingivitis is also affected when there are local contributing factors. It includes altered anatomy of the teeth, crowded teeth, poor fitting of appliances, and others.  


There are also medications for other diseases that can lead to the development of gingivitis. It includes medicines for high blood pressure, seizures, and organ transplant. 

Common Symptoms of Having Gingivitis 

There may be no noticeable symptoms in a case of mild gingivitis. As it progresses some signs and symptoms might include:

  • Tender gums that may be painful to touch
  • Bleeding gums when brushing or flossing
  • Bright red or purple gums
  • Inflammation or swollen gums
  • Soft gums
  • Receding gums
  • Halitosis or bad breath 
  • Diagnosis and Treatment

Your dentist or an oral hygienist will check the overall health of your mouth and check for symptoms. During an examination, your gums will be probed using a small ruler. Your dentist will look for signs of inflammation, plaque, or tartar. The small probe will also measure the pockets surrounding the teeth. Standard depth is one to three millimeters. In case bone loss is suspected, an x-ray will be ordered. 

You can discuss with your dentist the signs or symptoms that you experience to help diagnose your case. If you have severe gingivitis, you may be referred to a periodontist to focus on the treatment of your gum disease

Treatment of Gingivitis

Proper oral hygiene practices can treat gingivitis quickly. If you are smoking, you have to cut back on your smoking and learn to manage your diabetes. Treatment may include deep cleaning your teeth, prescription antibiotic medication, and surgery. 

Cleaning Your Teeth

Dentists have different techniques that they can use to deep clean the teeth without the need for surgery. All the plaque and tartar should be scraped off the teeth to prevent gum irritation and inflammation. Here are some of the procedures that you can expect your dentist to discuss with you:

  1. Scaling – removal of the tartar from below or above the gum line
  2. Root Planing – smoothening of rough spots and removes tartar and plaque from the root surface
  3. Laser – removal of tartar will reduce bleeding and pain
  4. Medications for Treatment of Gum Disease
  5. Several medications can help treat gum diseases. 
  6. Antiseptic mouthwash – these are available in the grocery stores. It contains chlorhexidine to disinfect the mouth. 
  7. Antibiotic microspheres – these are made with minocycline, which is inserted into gum pockets after planing or scaling. 
  8. Oral Antibiotics – these may be prescribed to treat persistent gum inflammation. A type of antibiotic that keeps enzymes from causing damage include Doxycycline. 


For severe cases and when cleaning or medication is not applicable, patients may need surgery to treat acute gingivitis. Here are the two procedures:

Flap Surgery – in this procedure, the gums are lifted back to remove tartar and plaque from the deeper pockets. Afterward, the gums will be stitched to fit snugly around your tooth. 

Bone and tissue graft – if the teeth and jaw are too damaged to heal, this procedure will be done. 

What are the normal conditions? 

Practicing better oral hygiene is essential in preventing gum and tooth diseases. Likewise, removing the source of infection is the simplest way of treating gingivitis. In normal conditions, home treatment is the key. Here are some simple ways you can do to manage your gingivitis and achieve better oral health.

Regular Brushing 

Use a soft-bristled or electric toothbrush to brush regularly. Choose a fluoride toothpaste recommended by your dentist to minimize the buildup of plaque. Additionally, toothpaste with triclosan and fluoride is proven to help reduce plaque formation on the teeth.  

Using Floss Everyday

Another way of effectively removing plaque between teeth and hard to reach areas is by flossing once a day. 

Regular Dental Check-Up

With regular dental checkups, dentists will be able to remove hardened plaque and tartar that have become difficult to remove with regular brushing and flossing. 

Likewise, have your dental defects such as poorly fitted fillings or crowns corrected to prevent oral health issues. Keep in mind that even with good dental hygiene, plaque can accumulate. After having the dentist remove all the hardened plaque, brush and floss regularly to minimize formation. 

For severe gingivitis, you may need to take antibiotics such as azithromycin. Antibiotics help the body’s immune system in fighting bacterial infection and reduce plaque. Bacteria are kept at a minimum level when plaque is lessened. However, taking antibiotics is not without risks. It should be used only when prescribed by a dentist or doctor. 

Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes

Small changes you make on your diet and hygiene can make a big difference in preventing gingivitis and oral health problems. Drink plenty of water to avoid dryness in the mouth. Likewise, cut back on sugar and sweets as they may cause cavities and tooth decay. Avoiding smoking also helps treat gingivitis problems. 

Another home remedy that you can try is to brush your teeth with a baking soda and peroxide solution. It will reduce bacteria that cause oral diseases.

There are also mouthwash products that contain essential oils with the ability to lessen plaque formation as well as treat gingivitis. This practice, along with professional cleaning and regular brushing, is proven effective in maintaining overall mouth health. Some ingredients to look for include menthol, thymol, eucalyptol, and methyl salicylate. 

Oil pulling may be practiced for better brushing and oral cleansing. This practice involves swishing of fractionated coconut oil for 20-30 minutes and spitting it out before brushing. It will lessen inflammation and bacterial infection of the gums. 

Risks of Having Gingivitis

Your risk for developing and advancing gingivitis case may be aggravated if you have the following conditions: 

Tobacco Use and Smoking 

Lifestyle factors such as smoking can increase the chances of having gingivitis and other oral health problems. Tobacco is not only unhealthy for your gums and teeth, but it can also lead to discoloration. These adverse effects on your mouth can cause bacterial infection. 


Not many people are aware that genetics also play a role in a person’s overall health. Just like other physical qualities, it also impacts your dental health. Therefore, if gingivitis is common in the family, make sure to practice good oral hygiene. It also helps to have a regular dental check-up to avoid gingivitis. 

Teeth Grinding

People who suffer from bruxism or teeth grinding are more prone to developing oral health problems, including gingivitis. 


Stress weakens your immune system; thus, you become prone to infections. If you are stressed out, your body will not be able to fight gum inflammation and oral diseases. 

Oral Medications 

Some oral medication, contraceptives, and antidepressants can make you more susceptible to developing gingivitis. These are just some medications that can affect your oral health. 


Age also plays a factor in increasing the risk of gum diseases. Older people are more prone to acquire gingivitis. Visit your dentist regularly to prevent any oral health issues that may be caused by old age. 

When to Seek Medical Attention

Gingivitis can usually be managed at home with better oral hygiene and concerted effort on brushing and flossing regularly. However, if the symptoms persist despite all these efforts in preventing it, you should visit your doctor to investigate the potential underlying cause. If you notice lacerations, ulcers or blisters in your mouth, you might have other forms of oral diseases. If other conditions coincide with the signs and symptoms, it is time to seek medical attention.