Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease (periodontal disease) that causes irritation and swelling (inflammation) of the gums located at the base of your teeth (gingiva). Symptoms can be very mild. In fact, some people may have gingivitis and may not even know it. Treatment of gingivitis is important as the condition may lead to a much more serious gum condition (periodontitis), which can result in the loss of teeth.
Symptoms of gingivitis include a change in color of the gums (from pink to red), swollen gums, receding gums, and gums that bleed easily when brushing or flossing. Gingivitis develops from plaque, a sticky film on the teeth that is made by the bacteria feeding on the food left over in the mouth. If this plaque is not removed, it hardens and turns into tarter. As plaque and tarter sit on your teeth and gums, they irritate the gums around the base of your teeth (gingiva), causing them to become red and swollen (inflamed). Risk factors for gingivitis include changes to hormone levels that can occur with pregnancy or with the menstrual cycle, conditions that weaken the immune system (HIV), smoking, and not brushing and flossing on a daily basis.
Dentists can easily diagnose gingivitis based on your symptoms and an examination of your teeth and gums. If the cause of your gingivitis is not clear, the dentist may recommend additional medical evaluations to look for other health issues that may be causing the gingivitis. Treatment includes thorough cleaning of the teeth, instructions on how to care for your teeth (proper brushing and flossing), and regular professional cleaning.