Font Size


Gingivitis Overview

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums (gingiva) surrounding the teeth. Gingivitis affects a significant portion of the population and is the most common form of periodontal diseases (diseases of the tissues surrounding the teeth). Chronic gingivitis may lead to receding gums and can be a precursor of periodontitis.

This inflammation of the gingiva is classified according to severity. It can range from mild to severe gingivitis and more uncommon but serious necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis.

  • Inflammation is a complex system by which bacteria-fighting cells of the body are recruited to an area of bacterial infection. Inflammation plays a major role in gingivitis. It is this inflammation of the gums that accounts for most of the symptoms of gingivitis.
  • Bacteria can cause inflammation of the gums. Although bacteria are normally found in our bodies and provide protective effects most of the time, bacteria can be harmful. The mouth is an ideal place for bacteria to live. The warm, moist environment and constant food supply are everything bacteria need to thrive. If not for a healthy immune system, bacteria in the mouth would rapidly reproduce out of control, overwhelming the body's defense system.
  • An infection begins when the body's immune system is overwhelmed. The gum disease of gingivitis is an infection that occurs when bacteria invade soft tissues and bone adjacent to teeth. The severity of this infection varies from mild to severe and can be an indication of a life-threatening systemic disease.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/30/2015
Medical Author:

Must Read Articles Related to Gingivitis

Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Bad Breath (Halitosis) Bad breath (halitosis) can be caused by a variety of things including diet, medication, poor oral hygiene, and diseases or conditions such as diabetes, GERD, la...learn more >>
Dental Abscess
Dental Abscess Bacteria from a tooth cavity can cause a dental abscess, or infection of the mouth, jaw, or face. Symptoms include pain, swelling, facial redness, gum inflammat...learn more >>
Periodontal Disease (Gum Disease)
Periodontal (Gum) Disease Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth. Teeth are supported by the gums, or gingiva. A tooth's root is anchored to its socket...learn more >>

Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Gingivitis:

Gingivitis - Treatment

What is the treatment for your gingivitis?

Gingivitis - Symptoms and Signs

What symptoms and signs did you experience with your gingivitis?

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Gingivitis »

Gingivitis is an inflammatory process limited to the mucosal epithelial tissue surrounding the cervical portion of the teeth and the alveolar processes.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary