Gingivitis: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

gingivitisGingivitis is a condition characterized by the inflammation of gums or the gingiva in response to a local or a systemic factor. This is a reversible gum disease in which there is no destruction of underlying tissues or the alveolar bone.

This is a milder form of the gum disease, which if not treated at the earliest, can cause many oral health complications later. 

Clinical Features of Gingivitis

Normally healthy gingiva is pale pink in color and has well-defined margins. When there is inflammation, gingiva loses its normal texture and color. In the case of gingivitis, the following changes may be seen.

  • The gingiva becomes red and the tissue may become spongy.
  • There may be gum bleeding, especially on the application of slight pressure, like when you brush teeth or when you chew on hard food items.
  • Changes in the contour of the gingiva may be present.
  • Plaque and calculus may be present without any underlying bone loss.
  • The bad odor may be present in the mouth.

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Causes of Gingivitis

Following are the certain local and systemic factors that are most commonly known to cause this gum disease.

Plaque-induced gingival inflammation

This is the most common local cause leading to gingival inflammation.

People with poor oral hygiene usually tend to have accumulated plaque near the gums. which accumulates over a period of time resulting in gum irritation causing gingivitis.

The plaque left untreated progress to form calculus and further results in chronic irritation of the gingival tissue to cause chronic gingivitis.

Other Local Causes

The other local factors are crowded teeth, high frenum attachment, poor fitting prosthesis or broken restorations which could irritate the gums causing inflammation leading to gingivitis.

Systemic Causes

Systemic factors which alter the host response to plaque accumulation in conditions like Pregnancy, puberty, menstruation, menopause, diabetes mellitus, blood dyscrasias like leukemia leading may cause gingival inflammation. 

Gingival inflammation may also be caused due to malnutrition as in the case of protein deficiency or vitamin c deficiency.


Smoking or use of tobacco not only causes gingivitis, if not acted on at the right time may progress further to Periodontitis.


Drug-induced gingivitis or gingival enlargement may be caused when using certain oral contraceptives, phenytoin or cyclosporin.

Bacterial Causes of Gingal Inflammation

There is another very rare form of gingivitis caused by a Lancefield A  streptococcus bacteria which causes beefy red painful gingival tissue. This condition needs to be treated with antibiotics.

Types of Gingivitis

Gingivitis can be classified into different types based on the cause, onset, location, and duration. Below are some of the important ones.

Acute Gingivitis:

This is the gingivitis specialized by sudden onset and has a short duration. This can be painful too. 

Chronic Gingivitis:

This develops slowly and has a longer duration. It usually is painless, unless complicated due to other reasons. This usually is a fluctuating disease.


This type of gingival inflammation can recur even after having been eliminated by treatment.

Localized Gingivitis:

This is confined to a localized area which often is a single tooth or a group of teeth.

Generalized Gingival Inflammation:

Involves the entire mouth.

Marginal Gingivitis:

Affects the marginal gingiva only.

Papillary Gingival Inflammation:

Involves the interdental papilla. This is where the earliest signs of gingivitis can be noticed.

Diffuse Gingival Inflammation:

This type affects the gingival margin, the attached gingiva, and the interdental papillae.

gingival inflammation

Gingival inflammation

Treatment and Management of Gingivitis

As mentioned in the beginning, gingivitis is a reversible condition if treated early. If left untreated this condition will lead to chronic gingival inflammation which then may lead to damage of the Periodontium causing Periodontitis characterized by bone loss, which is not reversible.

So what can be done to reverse gingival inflammation at the earliest or prevent it from happening?

  • Plaque and calculus are the main culprits of gum diseases. So maintenance of good oral hygiene is very important.
  • Applying the correct tooth brushing techniques and using dental floss regularly is very important to effectively remove plaque and prevent its accumulation.
  • Use of mouthwashes prescribed by the dentist may be helpful.
  • If you notice calculus or tartar in your mouth, visit your dentist ASAP, as it must be removed with dental scaling and cleaning procedures in the clinic.
  • Carious teeth need to be filled, any broken fillings need to be repaired.
  • Any poor fitting prosthesis if present in your mouth needs to be redone, as it may be the cause for gingival irritation and inflammation.
  • Systemic causes need to be addressed. Attention to oral hygiene measures along with the treatment of the underlying condition becomes important in these cases.

So now you know how important it is to maintain good oral hygiene. Simple steps of oral hygiene you follow every day can help keep your oral cavity healthy.

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Medical Disclaimer

This content is strictly the opinion of the author and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical/dental advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician or a dentist. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions.

The publisher of this content takes NO responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians and/or the dentists before beginning any nutrition, supplement, medications or lifestyle program.