Gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums, is the beginning stage of gum disease and the easiest to treat. The direct cause of gingivitis is plaque – the soft, sticky, colorless film of bacteria that forms on the teeth and gums just hours after brushing your teeth. Gingivitis affects more than 50% of the population.
If the plaque is not removed by daily brushing and flossing it produces toxins (poisons) that can irritate the gum tissue, causing gingivitis. Symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen, tender gums that may bleed when you brush or floss your teeth. Another sign of gum disease is gums that have receded or pulled away from your teeth. Gingivitis can cause pockets to form between the teeth and gums, where plaque and food debris may collect. At this early stage in gum disease, damage can be reversed because the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place are not yet affected. If gingivitis is left untreated, however, it can lead to periodontitis and cause permanent damage to your teeth and jaw.
Good oral hygiene is essential. Professional cleanings are also extremely important because once plaque has hardened and built up into tartar (calculus), only a dentist or dental hygienist can remove it.
You can help stop gingivitis before it develops by: