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Gingivitis is a common, mild, and early form of gum (periodontal) disease. It causes inflammation of the gum tissue (gingiva).
Mild symptoms of gingivitis may be unnoticeable until the condition progresses. But people with gingivitis may have gums that:
Gingivitis can also cause mouth sores and bad breath that doesn’t improve after brushing the teeth.
Without proper treatment, gingivitis can develop into a more severe gum disease called periodontitis. This condition causes the gum tissue to pull away (recede) from the teeth. It damages the bones that support teeth and can ultimately cause tooth loss.
Unlike periodontitis, gingivitis is reversible but can come back. The best way to treat and prevent gingivitis is to practice good oral hygiene and get regular professional teeth cleanings. The sooner gingivitis is treated, the better the outlook.
The body’s response to dental plaque and tartar buildup normally causes gingivitis and periodontal disease. Dental plaque formation occurs when harmful bacteria, saliva, mucus, bits of food, and dead cells form a sticky film.
Other factors that can cause gingivitis include:
To diagnose someone with gingivitis, a dentist will:
You can often treat minor gum inflammation and gingivitis with good oral hygiene. But many people benefit from professional treatments that reduce inflammation, treat and control severe gingivitis, and improve gum health.
Professional treatment options for gingivitis include:
Scaling removes tartar buildup and plaque from teeth and below the gum line. During scaling, a dental professional uses hand, laser, or ultrasonic devices. After scaling, they may also smooth the tooth’s root surfaces to prevent bacteria from sticking.
Make sure to schedule regular checkups and cleanings every 6 to 12 months. People with risk factors for gingivitis, or a history of it, should get cleanings and checkups every 2 weeks to 3 months.
A dentist or periodontist can fix braces and dentures that don’t fit properly. They can also fix teeth that are misshapen or crooked, which can cause them to harbor bacteria.
At-home remedies can often help treat minor gingivitis and prevent gum disease.
Some of the best at-home remedies and prevention tips for gingivitis include:
Good oral hygiene, like tooth brushing and flossing the teeth twice a day, helps treat and prevent gingivitis. Brushing the teeth properly removes plaque and other substances that can form plaque.
To prevent or control gingivitis, brush teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste with fluoride. Brush for 2-minute intervals at least twice a day.
Most dentists recommend using an electric toothbrush or a regular toothbrush with a small head. Replace toothbrushes or toothbrush heads every 1 to 3 months.
Flossing between and around the teeth helps remove plaque. Floss one to two times a day with dental floss, specialized interdental brushes, dental picks, or electronic devices like a waterpik.
Smoking tobacco weakens the immune system, which fights off infections from plaque and bacteria. People who chew tobacco are also more likely to develop gingivitis.
Using or smoking tobacco also increases the depth and number of air pockets between the teeth and gums. Harmful compounds in tobacco can reduce blood flow to the gums, cause changes in gum tissues, and worsen gum recession.
You can help reduce your risk of developing gingivitis by:
Nutrient deficiencies, particularly vitamin C or niacin, can lead to gingivitis.
Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet rich in fresh vegetables and fruits can help treat or reduce the risk of gingivitis. Limiting your intake of sugar and alcohol can also help reduce the risk of gingivitis.
Stress can weaken the immune system and increase your risk of gingivitis. Good stress reduction techniques include regular exercise, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, meditation, and Tai Chi.
Using OTC products such as mouth rinses and special toothpastes can usually help treat dry mouth.
Some prescription medications can also cause dry mouth. If a medication causes dry mouth that doesn’t improve with OTC remedies, talk to a doctor about switching drugs.
Medications associated with dry mouth include those prescribed for:
A viral, fungal, or bacterial infection can cause gingivitis. Treatments include antibiotic, anti-viral, and antifungal medications.
Properly treating and managing conditions that impact the body’s immune system or cause dry mouth can help treat and prevent gingivitis.
Conditions that raise the risk of gingivitis include:
Using an over-the-counter (OTC) antibacterial mouthwash, antiseptic mouthwash, or anti-plaque mouth rinse can reduce plaque and get rid of bacteria between the teeth.
Saltwater mouth rinse can also help. Mix 1 teaspoon of salt into a glass of warm water. Then, swish the saltwater around for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat at least three times a day.
Some DIY mouth rinses with antibacterial or soothing ingredients may also be effective for gingivitis, such as rinses made of:
Oil pulling is an ancient remedy that may draw out bacteria and toxins in the mouth.
To perform oil pulling, swish 1 tablespoon of oil in the mouth for around 20 minutes. Thoroughly rinse the mouth with warm water and brush afterwards.
You can use:
Learn more about the effectiveness of oil pulling. This method should be used as an adjunct to good oral hygiene, but cannot cure gingivitis on its own.
If you don’t treat gingivitis, it can develop into more severe gum disease such as periodontitis, which can cause tooth loss.
Inflammation from chronic gingivitis may also cause:
Gingivitis is a minor form of gum disease. Plaque buildup on the teeth and gums causes most cases of gingivitis. Symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen, sensitive, bleeding gums.
In most cases, treating gingivitis involves maintaining good oral hygiene, using at-home remedies, professional treatments like deep cleanings, and regular dental visits. These methods are also effective in preventing gingivitis.
Talk to a dentist if gums are red, swollen, sensitive, or bleed easily.
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