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Gingivitis Treatment: Professional Options & Home Remedies

Jennifer Huizen Headshot
Written by
Jennifer Huizen
Medically Reviewed by 
Dr. Erica Anand
15 Sources Cited

What is Gingivitis?

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:

  • Appear inflamed
  • Swell
  • Look red, dusky-red, or reddish-purple
  • Bleed easily, especially during or after brushing or flossing
  • Feel very sensitive
  • Make chewing painful
  • Are shiny

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.

What Causes Gingivitis?

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:

  • Viral, fungal, and bacterial infections
  • Impacted or infected teeth
  • Allergic responses
  • Genetic disorders
  • Conditions that impact the mucus membranes
  • Injury
  • Foreign materials or dental restoration devices, such as dentures and dental pastes

How is Gingivitis Diagnosed?

To diagnose someone with gingivitis, a dentist will:

  • Ask questions about symptoms, medical history, risk factors for gingivitis, and family history of gum disease
  • Examine the teeth and gums for signs of inflammation, loose teeth, or receding gums
  • Use a probe to measure pockets around the teeth (in healthy gums, these pockets aren’t more than 1 to 3 millimeters)
  • Take X-rays to assess bone loss or damage 

How is Gingivitis Treated? 

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 and Root Planing

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. 

Regular Dental Checkups

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. 

Fixing Teeth or Poorly Fitted Dental Devices

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. 

Home Remedies & Prevention Tips for Gingivitis

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:

Practice Good Dental Hygiene 

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.

Quit Smoking or Using Tobacco Products

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.

Reduce or Manage Risk Factors

You can help reduce your risk of developing gingivitis by:

1. Maintaining a Healthy, Balanced Diet

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. 

2. Managing Stress

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.

3. Addressing Dry Mouth

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:

  • Seizures
  • Heart problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Birth control
  • Organ transplants
  • Infections or allergic responses
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Pain
4. Treating Certain Infections

A viral, fungal, or bacterial infection can cause gingivitis. Treatments include antibiotic, anti-viral, and antifungal medications.

5. Managing Chronic Conditions

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:

  • Diabetes
  • Leukemia
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Hormonal conditions
  • Crohn's disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
6. Using Mouth Rinses

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:

  • 2 to 3 drops of lemongrass essential oil diluted in water
  • 2 to 3 drops of 100% tea tree oil in half a glass of water
  • 0.5 grams (g) of sage extract in 100 ml distilled water
  • 2 ml of calendula tincture in 6 ml of water
  • 0.5 g of green tea extract in 100 ml of distilled water
  • 10 mg of curcumin extract in 100 ml of distilled water (further dilute to a 1:1 ratio with water before rinsing)
  • Chamomile extract
7. Oil Pulling 

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:

  • Coconut oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Sesame oil

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. 

Risks of Untreated Gingivitis 

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:

  • Diabetes
  • Respiratory disease
  • Stroke
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, also called trench mouth
  • Cancer

Summary

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.

Last updated on April 20, 2022
15 Sources Cited
Last updated on April 20, 2022
All NewMouth content is medically reviewed and fact-checked by a licensed dentist or orthodontist to ensure the information is factual, current, and relevant.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only cite from current scientific research, such as scholarly articles, dentistry textbooks, government agencies, and medical journals. This also includes information provided by the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Association of Orthodontics (AAO), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
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