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What Is Gingivitis: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & Prevention


Gingivitis is a common and mild form of gum disease that is a precursor to the more-serious gum disease called periodontitis. Gingivitis can be so mild, in fact, that you may not even recognize it.

Man looking in the mirror, brushing his teeth to prevent gingivitis

Here’s what you should know about the causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention of gingivitis.

What causes gingivitis? Gingivitis is caused by the buildup of bacteria, mucus, and food debris in our mouths, which combine into a sticky substance called plaque. When plaque doesn’t get removed by regular dental care, it turns into a more resilient substance called tartar. Plaque, tartar and the toxins they produce infect and inflame the gums, developing into gingivitis.

What are the symptoms of gingivitis?

  • Swollen, soft, puffy or receding gums
  • Tender gums, itchy guyms, or gums that easily bleed during brushing and flossing
  • Bad breath that just won’t go away

How to treat or prevent gingivitis? The best way to treat gingivitis is to prevent it from happening by maintaining a healthy oral-care routine, including:

  • Brushing teeth twice a day
  • Rinsing with mouthwash
  • Flossing regularly to remove plaque
  • Maintaining a healthy diet

Other factors that can lead to gingivitis. Gingivitis is most commonly caused by plaque buildup, but there are a number of other conditions that may raise the risk of gingivitis, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Hormonal changes, especially for women during puberty or pregnancy
  • Misaligned teeth, rough edges or fillings, and unclean mouth appliances like braces or crowns.
  • Stress
  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Smoking
  • Certain illnesses and their medications
  • Genetic susceptibility to gum disease


This article includes information from the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mayo Clinic and the American Academy of Periodontology.

© Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. 2019

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