Gums,  Health

Gum disease (Gingivitis) – Treatment, Symptoms, Pictures, Mouthwash

Key Facts

  • Definition: Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease characterized by inflammation and bleeding of the gums
  • Causes: The primary cause of gingivitis is the accumulation of plaque – a sticky film of bacteria on the teeth
  • Prevalence: It’s a common condition and can affect individuals at any age
  • Symptoms: Red, swollen gums that bleed easily during brushing or flossing
  • Reversibility: Gingivitis is reversible with proper oral hygiene
  • Progression: If left untreated, it can progress to a more severe form of gum disease known as periodontitis
  • Prevention: Regular dental cleanings and good oral hygiene practices, including brushing and flossing, can help prevent gingivitis

What is Gum Disease (Gingivitis)?

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums, which is generally caused by the buildup of plaque on the teeth. Plaque is a soft, sticky film that accumulates on the teeth and contains millions of bacteria. When plaque is not removed adequately through brushing and flossing, the bacteria can irritate the gums, leading to gingivitis.
It’s important to recognize that gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease, and at this stage, the damage is still reversible. However, if left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis, a more serious form of gum disease that can lead to tooth loss and other health complications.

Prevalence: Who Gets Gum Disease (Gingivitis)?

Gingivitis can affect people of all ages, but there are certain factors that increase the risk of developing the condition:

  • Poor Oral Hygiene: Not brushing or flossing regularly is a primary factor
  • Smoking and Tobacco Use: Smoking is strongly linked to the onset of gingivitis
  • Hormonal Changes: Such as those occurring during pregnancy, menstruation, puberty, and menopause
  • Medications: Certain medications can affect oral health and contribute to gingivitis
  • Medical Conditions: Such as diabetes, blood disorders, and certain viral and fungal infections
  • Genetics: A family history of gum disease can be a contributing factor
  • Dental Appliances: Ill-fitting dental restorations or appliances like braces can harbor bacteria

How Common is Gum Disease (Gingivitis)?

Gingivitis is a very common condition. Studies have suggested that a significant percentage of the population has some degree of gingivitis. The prevalence of gingivitis tends to increase with age, but it’s not just an adult condition – children and teenagers can also develop gingivitis, particularly during hormonal changes associated with puberty.
The high prevalence of gingivitis highlights the importance of regular dental check-ups and good oral hygiene practices for individuals of all ages. Through early intervention and the adoption of good oral hygiene practices, gingivitis can be effectively managed and reversed.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Gum Disease (Gingivitis)?

When gingivitis first begins, it may be mild and unnoticeable. However, as the condition progresses, various signs and symptoms can become evident:

  • Redness and Swelling: The gums may appear red and puffy
  • Bleeding: The gums might bleed during brushing or flossing
  • Tenderness: The gums may be sensitive to touch
  • Bad Breath: Also known as halitosis, persistent bad breath may occur
  • Receding Gums: The gums may pull back from the teeth
  • Loose Teeth: In advanced cases, the teeth may become loose due to the weakening of the supporting gum tissue
  • Changes in Bite: As the gums recede, the way the teeth come together when biting can change

It’s important to remember that early gingivitis might not be painful. This can make it easy to ignore, but even painless redness and slight bleeding can be signs of problems. Hence, it’s critical to pay attention to these early symptoms and seek dental care.

What Causes Gum Disease(Gingivitis)?

Gingivitis is primarily caused by the buildup of plaque on the teeth and gums. Plaque is a sticky film that contains bacteria and forms on the teeth. Here are the main factors that lead to the buildup of plaque and, ultimately, gingivitis:

  • Poor Oral Hygiene: Not brushing or flossing regularly allows plaque to build up on the teeth
  • Tobacco Use: Smoking or chewing tobacco can lead to gingivitis
  • Hormonal Changes: Hormonal changes, such as during pregnancy or menstruation, can make gums more vulnerable to gingivitis
  • Medications: Certain medications, particularly those that reduce saliva flow, can increase the risk of gingivitis
  • Disease: Conditions like diabetes can increase the risk of infections, including gum infections
  • Genetics: Some people are more genetically prone to severe gum disease than others
  • Age: Older people have a higher risk of developing gingivitis
  • Diet and Nutrition: Poor nutrition, including vitamin C deficiency, can contribute to gum diseases

Is Gum Disease (Gingivitis) Contagious?

Gingivitis itself is not contagious in the sense that you can’t catch it like a cold or the flu. However, the bacteria that cause gingivitis can be transferred through saliva. This is why it’s a good idea not to share eating utensils or toothbrushes. For the bacteria to cause gingivitis, the right conditions must exist, such as poor oral hygiene. Simply being exposed to the bacteria doesn’t mean someone will develop gingivitis.

How is Gum Disease (Gingivitis) Diagnosed?

Diagnosing gingivitis typically involves a dental exam and, in some cases, dental X-rays. Here are the steps generally taken to diagnose gingivitis:

  • Dental Exam: A dentist or dental hygienist will examine your gums and teeth, checking for any signs of inflammation, redness, or bleeding.
  • Medical History Review: The dentist may review your medical history to identify any factors that could contribute to the symptoms, such as certain medications or health conditions.
  • Measuring Pocket Depth: The dentist might use a small dental instrument to measure the pocket depth of the groove between your gums and teeth. Healthy gums usually have a pocket depth of 1 to 3 millimeters. Larger depths can be a sign of gingivitis or more severe periodontal disease.
  • Dental X-rays: X-rays might be used to check for bone loss in areas where the dentist observes deeper pocket depths.
  • Dental Cleaning: Sometimes during the exam, the dental hygienist may perform a professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar.

How Do You Treat Gum Disease (Gingivitis)?

The main goal of treating gingivitis is to reduce inflammation and remove the plaque or tartar that is causing gum irritation. The approach to treatment can vary depending on the severity of the condition:

  • Professional Dental Cleaning: Removing plaque and tartar is essential, and this is often accomplished through a professional cleaning by a dental hygienist.
  • Improved Oral Hygiene Practices: Brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, and regularly rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash can help prevent plaque buildup.
  • Dentist Follow-up Visits: More frequent check-ups may be recommended for monitoring the condition.
  • Restorative Dental Treatments: If misaligned teeth or poorly-fitted dental appliances are contributing to gingivitis, corrective procedures might be recommended.
  • Medications: In some cases, a dentist might prescribe special toothpaste, mouthwash, or oral medication to help combat infection.

How Can I Reduce My Risk for Gum Disease (Gingivitis)?

Prevention is always better than cure. Here are steps to reduce your risk for gingivitis:

  • Maintain Oral Hygiene: Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss daily, and use a mouthwash to help control plaque bacteria.
  • Regular Dental Checkups: See your dentist or dental hygienist regularly for cleanings, usually every six to 12 months.
  • Quit Smoking: If you smoke, seek advice from a healthcare professional about strategies to quit.
  • Manage Health Conditions: If you have health conditions such as diabetes that increase your risk of gingivitis, work with your healthcare provider to manage them.
  • Eat a Balanced Diet: Eating a diet that’s good for your teeth and gums can help. This includes limiting sugary foods and drinks and ensuring you get plenty of vitamins and minerals.

Remember that early intervention is the key to preventing gingivitis from progressing to more serious gum disease. Keep an eye on the health of your gums and seek dental care if you notice signs of redness, swelling, or bleeding.

What Can I Expect If I Have Gum Disease (Gingivitis)?

If you have gingivitis, the following are some of the things you can expect:

  • Symptoms: Common symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen gums that bleed easily, especially when brushing or flossing. You may also experience bad breath and a change in the color of your gums.
  • Dental Visits: You will likely need to visit your dentist for a professional assessment and cleaning. The frequency of visits might increase if the dentist wants to closely monitor your condition.
  • Oral Care Routine Changes: Your dentist will probably advise you on improving your oral hygiene practices. This might include tips on better brushing and flossing techniques or recommendations for specific types of toothpaste or mouthwash.
  • Possible Discomfort: Depending on the severity, you might experience some discomfort or sensitivity in your gums, especially during the initial phase of treatment.
  • Long-term Management: Gingivitis can often be reversed with proper care, but maintaining good oral hygiene practices will be essential for preventing its recurrence.

Can Gum Disease (Gingivitis) Be Cured?

Yes, gingivitis can often be cured, especially if it’s caught early. The key to curing gingivitis is removing the plaque and tartar that cause the gum inflammation, and then maintaining a strict oral hygiene regimen to prevent plaque from building up again. This includes regular brushing, flossing, and dental check-ups. In some cases, specific treatments or medications might be necessary, especially if there’s an underlying health condition contributing to gingivitis.

What’s the Fastest Way to Cure Gum Disease (Gingivitis)?

The fastest way to cure gingivitis involves a combination of professional dental care and diligent oral hygiene practices:

  • Professional Cleaning: Schedule a visit to your dentist for a professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar. This is a crucial first step, as it’s something you cannot do effectively at home once tartar has formed.
  • Oral Hygiene Regimen: Brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss daily, and use an antiseptic mouthwash. Make sure you’re using a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste.
  • Dietary Changes: Limit sugary foods and drinks, as they can contribute to plaque buildup. Drinking water throughout the day can also help to rinse away bacteria.
  • Smoking Cessation: If you’re a smoker, quitting smoking will significantly improve your gum health.
  • Use of Medications: If your dentist prescribes any medications or special oral care products, make sure to use them as instructed.
  • Follow-up Visits: Attend any follow-up appointments your dentist schedules to monitor your progress and make sure that the gingivitis is being effectively treated.

Remember that while quick action can help resolve gingivitis, ongoing maintenance and oral care are essential for long-term oral health.

When Should I See a Dentist?

It’s important to see a dentist regularly for routine check-ups, usually every six months. However, when it comes to gingivitis, you should make an appointment to see a dentist if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Gums that bleed easily during brushing or flossing
  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
  • Gums that are pulling away from the teeth
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Changes in the fit of partial dentures
  • Any unusual changes in your oral health

Seeing a dentist early can help prevent gingivitis from progressing to a more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis.

What Questions Should I Ask My Dentist?

When you see your dentist regarding gingivitis or for a regular check-up, here are some questions that you might consider asking:

  • What is the state of my gum health?
  • What oral care routine do you recommend to improve or maintain my gum health?
  • Are there any specific toothbrushes, toothpaste, or mouthwashes you recommend?
  • How often should I schedule dental cleanings and check-ups?
  • Are there any signs of gingivitis or gum disease that I should be especially vigilant about?
  • Do you have any dietary recommendations for gum health?
  • How can I improve my flossing technique?
  • Are there any treatments you recommend for my current state of gum health?
  • What should I do if I notice bleeding in my gums between visits?
  • Are there any lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, that could positively affect my gum health?

Is Gum Disease (Gingivitis) a Serious Problem?

Gingivitis can be mild in its early stages, but it should never be ignored. While it is the mildest form of gum disease, if left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis, which is much more serious. Periodontitis can lead to the loss of bone in the jaw, loose teeth, and eventually tooth loss. Additionally, research has shown that there may be associations between periodontal diseases and other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, it’s important to take gingivitis seriously and manage it promptly with good oral hygiene and regular dental care.

Hydrogen Peroxide for Gum Disease (Gingivitis)

Hydrogen peroxide has been used as a mouth rinse to kill bacteria and whiten teeth for many years. It has the ability to kill bacteria by releasing oxygen that can destroy the cell walls of the bacteria. Some studies suggest that using a mouthwash containing hydrogen peroxide can help reduce gum inflammation and bleeding caused by gingivitis.
However, it is essential to use it correctly and safely. Hydrogen peroxide should be diluted to a concentration of no more than 3% for oral use. Swish the diluted solution in your mouth for about 30 seconds and then spit it out – don’t swallow it. Always follow up with a rinse of plain water.
While hydrogen peroxide can help manage symptoms, it is not a cure for gingivitis. Proper oral hygiene and dental treatment are necessary to treat the condition fully.

Gum Disease (Gingivitis) That Won’t Go Away

If you have been diligent with oral hygiene practices and have tried over-the-counter remedies or home solutions, but your gingivitis does not seem to be improving, it’s important to see a dentist. Persistent gingivitis can be a sign of underlying health issues or can progress to more serious gum diseases like periodontitis. Your dentist can perform a thorough examination and may perform a professional cleaning to remove tartar that isn’t removable with regular brushing. They may also recommend special toothpaste, mouthwashes, or even prescribe antibiotics if there is an infection. It’s important to follow your dentist’s recommendations and continue with regular dental check-ups.

Coenzyme Q10 for Gum Disease (Gingivitis)

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a naturally occurring antioxidant that is used in the cells for energy production. Some studies have suggested that people with gum disease might have lower levels of CoQ10 in their gums. A few small clinical trials have suggested that CoQ10 supplements might help reduce swelling and depth of gum pockets in people with periodontal disease when used in conjunction with traditional dental treatments. However, more research is needed to confirm these results, and it’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen.

Homemade Gum Disease (Gingivitis) Rinse (DIY Recipe)

A popular homemade rinse for gingivitis uses the antibacterial properties of essential oils and salt. Here’s a simple DIY recipe you can try:

  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 2 teaspoons of sea salt
  • 2 drops of tea tree oil
  • 2 drops of peppermint oil


  • Dissolve the sea salt in the warm water.
  • Once the salt has dissolved, add the tea tree oil and peppermint oil.
  • Swirl the mixture around to mix in the oils.
  • Use this solution as a mouth rinse twice daily after brushing your teeth.

Remember, while this rinse can help manage symptoms, it cannot replace good oral hygiene habits or professional dental treatment. Always consult your dentist before starting a new dental care regimen.

Gum Disease (Gingivitis) From Kissing

Gingivitis is caused by the accumulation of plaque on the teeth and gums. Plaque is essentially a sticky film of bacteria, and when not removed properly through brushing and flossing, it can cause inflammation of the gums, known as gingivitis. Kissing, especially deep kissing, can actually transfer bacteria from one mouth to another. If a person has poor oral hygiene or gingivitis, the bacteria responsible for the condition can be passed to their partner through kissing. This doesn’t mean that the partner will automatically get gingivitis, but it increases the chances if they don’t maintain good oral hygiene.

Salt Water For Gum Disease (Gingivitis)

Rinsing the mouth with a saltwater solution can be an effective way to relieve symptoms of gingivitis. Salt has antiseptic and antibacterial properties which can help reduce the bacteria that cause gingivitis and can reduce inflammation of the gums.
To make a saltwater rinse:

  • Mix 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of salt in a glass of lukewarm water.
  • Swish the solution in the mouth for 30 seconds and spit it out.

This can be done 2-3 times a day. It’s important to remember that while saltwater rinses can help alleviate symptoms, they are not a substitute for proper oral hygiene or professional dental care.

Gingivitis (Gum Disease) Pronunciation

Gingivitis is pronounced as jin-juh-VY-tis.

This article is complete and was published on July 3, 2018, and last updated on August 25, 2023.

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