Understand Gingivitis: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

by | Jul 18, 2023 | Resources

Gum disease and Gum inflammation are some of the most common oral health problems affecting people worldwide. Suffering from some form of gum inflammation or gum disease is a reality many people face at some point in their lives.

Did you know that almost 30% of Australian adults suffer from some form of gum disease? This article will help you understand gum disease, otherwise known as gingivitis and periodontitis. We’ll discuss its causes, symptoms, treatment options, and effective preventive measures.

Short Summary

  • Gingivitis is an inflammatory condition of the gums caused by plaque and bacteria.
  • Watch for symptoms like swollen gums, gums that bleed when you brush or floss, or gums turning a dark red. Catching these signs early can help you get treatment sooner and prevent more serious issues.
  • You can prevent gingivitis through proper oral hygiene practices, lifestyle changes, and regular dental check-ups. Treatment options include professional cleaning, medications & surgery.

What is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease caused by plaque buildup and bacteria, causing inflamed and irritated gums. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to a more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis, which can ultimately lead to tooth loss.

The good news is that gingivitis can be treated and even reversed if caught early. By understanding the signs, symptoms and causes of gingivitis, you can take the necessary steps to keep your gums healthy!

Progression to Periodontitis

When left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis, a more severe form of gum disease. Periodontitis is described as the destruction of the soft tissue and bone that support our teeth and can lead to loose teeth and, eventually, tooth loss.

During this progression, gum pockets deepen, bacteria multiply, inflammation increases and infection occurs. To prevent this harmful chain of events, it’s vital to address the early signs of gingivitis and seek professional help to stop its progression to periodontitis.

Identifying Symptoms

It’s crucial to recognise the symptoms of gingivitis to take timely action and prevent the progression of gum disease. Early detection allows prompt treatment, reversing gingivitis and saving your teeth, bone and gums from further damage.

Let’s delve into the early signs and the more advanced symptoms of gingivitis.

Early Signs

In its initial stages, gingivitis presents as swollen or puffy gums that may bleed easily when brushing or flossing. Gums may also appear dusky red or dark red in colour. These early signs are our body’s alarm signals, urging us to take action and prevent further damage.

Addressing these symptoms promptly through proper oral hygiene and dental care can help reverse gingivitis and preserve our gum health.

Advanced Symptoms

As gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, more advanced symptoms may surface. These include receding or bleeding gums, sensitivity of the teeth, persistent bad breath, and loose teeth. At this stage, the destruction of the supporting structures of the teeth can become apparent, and tooth loss may be a real threat without professional dental treatment.

Recognising these symptoms and seeking professional help is crucial in stopping the progression of gum disease and avoiding irreversible damage.

Causes and Risk Factors

Understanding the causes and risk factors of gingivitis is essential in preventing its onset and progression. Poor oral hygiene is the primary factor, but other lifestyle habits and medical conditions can also contribute to developing gingivitis.

Let’s explore the role of plaque, bacteria, and other risk factors, in developing gingivitis and its progression to periodontitis if left untreated.

Plaque and Bacteria

Plaque, a sticky film of bacteria and food debris including sugars, accumulates on our teeth and can lead to gingivitis if not removed through regular dental cleanings, daily brushing, and flossing.

When plaque builds up, it can cause inflammation of the gums, which is the primary symptom of gingivitis. By removing plaque and maintaining good oral hygiene, we can prevent gingivitis and other oral health issues.

Other Risk Factors

Aside from plaque buildup, other risk factors for gingivitis include smoking, diabetes, certain medications, hormonal changes, stress, genetics, misaligned teeth, immune system issues, and ageing.

Diagnosing Gingivitis

Detecting and diagnosing gingivitis is crucial for its timely treatment and reversal. A dental check-up and screening test are typically used to diagnose gingivitis, with X-rays to confirm any bone loss associated with periodontitis.

Let’s delve into the diagnostic process and the importance of dental check-ups and X-rays in assessing gingivitis.

Dental Check-up

A dental check-up is a comprehensive examination of the teeth, gums, and mouth performed by a dentist. This examination assesses the general well-being of the mouth. It detects early indicators of gum disease, tooth decay, bone damage, oral cancer, and other serious dental health concerns. During the check-up, the dentist may probe the gums to detect any signs of gum disease, discuss risk factors and symptoms with the patient, and refer them to a periodontist if necessary.

Regular dental check-ups are critical for the early detection and treatment of gingivitis, ensuring the preservation of your oral health.

X-rays and Specialist Referral

X-rays play a significant role in diagnosing periodontitis and determining the extent of damage. They provide a detailed view of the teeth and bone surrounding the teeth, allowing the dentist to assess any underlying issues and confirm the diagnosis.

When X-rays indicate periodontitis, a specialist referral may be necessary, depending on the severity of the disease, to ensure an accurate diagnosis and the most appropriate treatment. Timely diagnosis and treatment are vital in preventing the progression of gingivitis to periodontitis.

Preventing Gingivitis

Knowing what causes and increases your risks of having gingivitis as well as how to identify its symptoms, we can now focus on prevention. By adopting good oral hygiene practices and lifestyle changes, we can keep gingivitis at bay and help maintain a healthy smile.

Oral Hygiene Practices

Good oral hygiene practices are essential in preventing gingivitis. Brushing your teeth twice daily with a soft toothbrush and flossing at least once a day helps remove the plaque and bacteria that can cause gum disease. Using fluoride toothpaste is also recommended. Fluoride helps kill the bacteria in your mouth that can cause gum disease and decay, it also helps strengthen tooth enamel against the acids produced by plaque and bacteria. 

Regular visits to the dentist are also vital. Your dentist can provide professional cleanings to remove calculus, also known as tartar (hardened plaque) which can make cleaning your teeth difficult and increase the plaque accumulated around the teeth, ultimately helping you prevent gum disease.

Lifestyle Changes

Preventing gingivitis isn’t solely about oral hygiene, lifestyle choices matter too. Avoiding tobacco products and vaping is essential, as it reduces the blood supply to the gums weakening the immune response in your gums and the gums ability to heal and fight gum infection. Reducing sugar intake can also be beneficial, as it decreases the food supply for harmful oral bacteria. Eating a balanced diet rich in vitamin C and other nutrients can also help boost your gum health! 

Gingivitis Treatment Options

Several options are available when treating gingivitis, ranging from professional cleaning to medications and surgery. The treatment choice depends on the severity of the condition and the individual’s oral health.

Let’s explore the treatment options that can help us regain control of our gum health.

Professional Cleaning

Professional teeth cleaning and calculus removal, also known as scaling, involves the removal of calculus and bacteria from teeth. This is often accompanied by root planing (cleaning below the gum line). This deep cleaning procedure is the most widely utilised treatment for gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Medications and Surgery

Medications such as antibiotics and antiseptics are sometimes used to help treat gingivitis and periodontitis. Surgical intervention may be recommended if periodontitis is severe and has caused significant damage to the supporting structures of the teeth.

The treatment choice depends on the severity of the condition, and it is essential to consult with a dental professional to determine the most suitable course of action.


In conclusion, understanding gum disease and gingivitis, its causes, symptoms, and treatment options is crucial for maintaining good gum and overall oral health. By adopting good oral hygiene practices, making lifestyle changes, and scheduling regular dental visits, you can effectively prevent and treat gingivitis. Let’s take control of our oral health and keep our smiles bright and healthy!

As always, if you have additional questions about gum disease and gingivitis or anything related to your oral health, give our friendly team at Beaches Dental Mona Vale a call on (02) 9997 8822 or request an appointment here.