What Is Gingivitis?
Gingivitis is the most common form of periodontal (gum) disease caused by bacteria in the gums due to a buildup of plaque. Most adults have some signs of gingival (gum) inflammation.
What Are Symptoms of Gingivitis?
In rare cases, a condition called acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) can develop suddenly and symptoms are usually more severe than those of regular gingivitis and may include:
What Causes Gingivitis?
Gingivitis (gum disease) is caused by a build-up of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that coats the teeth. The most common reason for this buildup and bacterial infection is poor oral hygiene. When plaque is not removed regularly with proper brushing and flossing, it can build up and cause gum inflammation, redness, bleeding, and tenderness.
Risk factors for gingivitis include:
Is Gingivitis Contagious?
Gingivitis is frequently caused by bacteria present in plaque, which builds up and results in gum inflammation and redness. Technically, gingivitis itself is not contagious, but the bacteria that cause it may be.
The bacteria that cause gingivitis may be spread through saliva, which means it is possible – though uncommon -- to spread through kissing or sharing eating utensils or oral health equipment with someone who has gum disease.
It has also been found that children are more likely to develop gum disease if their parents have it. Infants whose immune systems are still developing are at higher risk of getting gingivitis if a parent with gingivitis kisses their baby on the lips.
How Is Gingivitis Diagnosed?
Gingivitis is most often diagnosed with an oral exam from a dentist. The examination may include:
- Measurement of the pocket depth of the space between the gums and teeth
- Dental X-rays
Other tests may be recommended if underlying conditions are suspected.
What Is the Treatment for Gingivitis?
Mild gingivitis can often be treated with proper oral hygiene which includes:
- Brushing teeth at least twice daily
- Brush for about 2 minutes
- Use toothpaste that contains fluoride
- Flossing regularly
- Not smoking
- Getting regular dental check-ups
For more severe gingivitis, dental treatment may include:
- A professional dental cleaning called a scaling to remove plaque and tartar (hardened plaque)
- Root planing (debridement), which is a deep clean under the gums to get rid of bacteria at the roots of the teeth
- Surgery, such as tooth removal
Treatment for acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (ANUG) includes the above along with:
What Are Complications of Gingivitis?
If gingivitis is not addressed and the plaque or tartar is not removed from the teeth, the condition may lead to periodontitis, where the tissue that supports the teeth is affected.
If periodontitis is left untreated, complications may include:
- Recurrent gum abscesses
- Damage to the tissue that connects the tooth to the socket (periodontal ligament)
- Increased damage to and loss of the bone in the jaw that contains the sockets of the teeth (alveolar bone)
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
- Tooth loss
Gum disease is also associated with an increased risk for other health conditions, such as:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Lung infections
- Premature labor and low birth weight in women affected during pregnancy
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