Gingivitis is the chronic inflammation of the gum tissue (gingiva). It is linked to poor oral hygiene and is the early stage of periodontal or gum disease. If diagnosed early, gingivitis can be treated and may be reversed. Gum disease is a serious oral health problem that may lead to the loss of teeth and bone. One of the leading causes of tooth loss among adults, gum disease has also been linked to diabetes, heart attacks, and strokes, according to recent studies.

Symptoms of Gingivitis

Gingivitis can go unnoticed since the condition is typically not painful. Regular dental checkups are important since they involve the evaluation of your gums. Common signs of gingivitis include red, swollen gums and bleeding. Other symptoms are mouth sores, gums that recede from the teeth, itchy gums, bad breath, and bad taste in the mouth.

Causes of Gingivitis

Beside poor oral hygiene, these other factors may contribute to the development of gingivitis:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Smoking
  • Diabetes
  • Certain diseases and conditions
  • Certain medications
  • Pregnancy
  • Substance abuse
  • Puberty
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Genetics
  • Stress

Gingivitis Prevention

Gingivitis prevention is vital, since it can lead to gum disease and the possible loss of teeth. The most effective way to prevent gingivitis is to maintain good oral hygiene. This involves tooth-brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily, using an antibacterial mouth rinse, going for regular dental checkups, and making sure your diet is nutritious and balanced.

The kind of toothbrush you use may also be an important factor in gingivitis prevention. Toothbrushes with softer bristles are less likely to hurt the gums, and some dentists recommend the use of electric toothbrushes over manual ones in promoting better oral hygiene habits. Be careful not to brush too long or too hard, as this may not be beneficial for your teeth and gums.

Gingivitis Treatments

Gingivitis can often be easily treated by a thorough cleaning at your dental visit. Your dentist, dental hygienist, or periodontist will perform scaling on your teeth, removing hardened plaque and tartar from your teeth, both above and below the gum line. If there is a great amount of tartar and plaque buildup and/or your teeth tend to experience sensitivity, scaling may feel uncomfortable. If so, your dentist may prepare the area to be scaled with an anesthetic injection or numbing gel.

Scaling at your dentist’s office will require follow up with proper oral care at home. Your dentist will advise you on a good oral health maintenance regimen and may suggest the use of an oral rinse. During the first one or two days after the scaling procedure, you may notice some bleeding of the gums, which should decrease if proper oral hygiene is maintained.

Besides the traditional treatment for gingivitis, there are a few alternatives that may help treat or prevent slight inflammation of the


* Vitamin C supplements: A daily intake of 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C may help encourage healthy gums and prevent gingivitis, due to the vitamin’s natural antibiotic properties.
* Grapefruit seed extract: Grapefruit seed extract also has natural antibiotic qualities. One way to use the extract is by adding a couple of drops to your toothpaste when you brush. Grapefruit seed extract may help treat or prevent gingivitis, but is not recommended if you are on certain medications. Discuss with your dentist or physician if you are considering its use.
* Cranberries: Owing to their natural quality of preventing bacteria from adhering to the gums and teeth, cranberries may also help prevent gingivitis. It is best to avoid cranberry products that contain added sugar.