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Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums (gingiva) around the teeth due to improper cleaning of teeth. The condition is almost always reversible. Brushing teeth with toothpaste and flossing with dental floss are the best ways to prevent gingivitis.



Gingivitis is usually caused by the improper cleaning of teeth. When the teeth are not cleaned properly, the plaque deposits that result irritate the gums. Bacteria and toxins may cause the gums to become swollen, and infected. Gingivitis can also be caused by excessively vigorous brushing or flossing. Other causes include uncontrolled diabetes and pregnancy, due to hormonal changes that increase the sensitivity of the gums. Hormonal changes during puberty also may put one at risk for gingivitis. The risk of gingivitis is increased by irritated gums caused by misaligned teeth, the rough edges of fillings, and ill fitting or unclean dentures, bridges, and crowns. The drug phenytoin and birth control pills, and ingestion of heavy metals such as lead and bismuth also may cause gingivitis.


The symptoms of gingivitis are as follows:

  • Swollen gums
  • Mouth sores
  • Bright-red, or purple gums
  • Shiny gums
  • Gums that are painless, except when touched
  • Gums that bleed easily, even with gentle brushing


Gingivitis can be prevented through regular oral hygiene, including the brushing and flossing of the teeth.


It is recommended that a dentist be seen after the signs of gingivitis appear. A dentist will check for the symptoms of gingivitis, and may also examine the content of plaque at the base of the teeth. A dentist may also test for periodontitis , by the use of X-rays, or by gingival probing .


A dentist will perform a thorough cleaning of the teeth and gums. Following that, persistent oral hygiene is necessary. The removal of plaque may be painful, but the inflammation of the gums should be gone between one and two weeks. Oral hygiene is required to prevent the recurrence of gingivitis. Anti-bacterial rinses or mouthwash may reduce the swelling.


  • Recurrence of gingivitis
  • Periodontitis
  • Infection or abscess of the gingiva or the jaw bones
  • Trench mouth (Bacterial infection and ulceration of the gums)

Last updated: 04-30-2005 10:45:25