Merck Manual

Please confirm that you are not located inside the Russian Federation

honeypot link
Quick Facts

Gingivitis

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Oct 2019| Content last modified Oct 2019
Click here for the Professional Version
Get the full details
Topic Resources

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

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
NIACOR, NIASPAN
NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: Click here for the Professional Version
Click here for the Professional Version

OTHER TOPICS IN THIS CHAPTER

Periodontal Diseases
Others also read

Test your knowledge

Polyglandular Deficiency Syndromes
Polyglandular deficiency syndromes are hereditary disorders in which several endocrine glands (ie, glands that secrete hormones) malfunction together. Which of the following is the most appropriate treatment for these types of disorders? 
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID

Also of Interest

Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
Download the Manuals App iOS ANDROID
TOP