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Gingivitis ˌjin-jə-ˈvīt-əs

By The Manual's Editorial Staff,

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What is gingivitis?

The gingiva is your gums. Having "-itis" at the end of a word means inflammation. Gingivitis is when your gums become red, swollen, and bleed easily. Gingivitis that isn't treated can cause serious tooth and gum problems such as periodontitis.

  • Gingivitis is usually caused by not taking good care of your teeth

  • Taking certain medicines or having certain diseases also can cause gingivitis

  • Gingivitis is usually easily cured with good dental care

  • Brushing and flossing your teeth well can help prevent gingivitis

What causes gingivitis?

Almost all gingivitis is caused by plaque. Plaque is a sticky film full of germs that builds up on your teeth. The most common cause of too much plaque is:

  • Not brushing or flossing your teeth well

Plaque that stays on your teeth for more than a few days becomes hard. Hard plaque is called tartar. You can't remove tartar completely by brushing and flossing.

You can also get gingivitis from:

  • Taking certain medicines

  • Not getting enough vitamin C or niacin

  • Hormonal changes (for example, because of pregnancy or menopause)

  • Having an infection in your mouth

  • An impacted tooth (a tooth that hasn’t fully broken through your gum)

What are the symptoms of gingivitis?

Symptoms of gingivitis include:

  • Red gums (rather than pink)

  • Swollen gums

  • Gums that bleed easily

How do dentists treat gingivitis?

Dentists will:

  • Clean your teeth by scraping off the tartar and plaque

  • Treat the cause of your gingivitis

How can I prevent gingivitis?

You can help prevent gingivitis by:

  • Brushing and flossing your teeth each day

  • Using a mouthwash that helps lower plaque

  • Getting your teeth cleaned at the dentist every 6 to 12 months, or more often if needed

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