What Is Gingivitis? Getting a Handle on Early Gum Disease

While it’s typically a common oral health issue, gingivitis can lead to more serious problems if not treated immediately. It can cause bad breath, sensitive gums, and even tooth loss if allowed to progress. Seeking treatment as soon as possible is essential for preventing these symptoms and protecting your oral health.causes of gingivitis

Gingivitis is an inflammatory infection of the gums. It’s often the result of poor oral hygiene, although smoking also greatly increases your chances of infection. If left untreated, gingivitis may also contribute to other health problems such as Alzheimer’s disease. To prevent gingivitis, practice good oral hygiene and see your dentist regularly.

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease (periodontal disease). It’s a bacterial infection that infects the gum tissue that holds your teeth in place and is often the result of poor oral care. Poor oral hygiene and skipping regular cleanings increase your risk of gingivitis. If untreated, gingivitis can develop into a more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis

Want to learn how periodontitis can affect your oral health? Read Periodontitis: The Worst Form of Gum Disease to find out! 

Risk Factors

The biggest risk factor for gingivitis is bacteria in the mouth. Bacteria does more than cause bad breath and stained teeth — it can also lead to other serious oral health issues such as cavities and the infection that causes gum disease. Failure to protect your teeth and gums can lead to tooth loss due to the buildup of harmful bacteria in your mouth.

Over time, the bacteria in your mouth develops into a film on your teeth known as plaque. Brushing and flossing, along with regular visits to our office, can help keep you plaque-free. 

Plaque that isn’t removed can eventually harden into tartar, which you can’t remove on your own. Tartar requires professional cleanings for removal in order to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Smoking is another major cause of gum disease due to how it affects your immune system. The CDC has reported that smokers are twice as likely to develop gum disease, and your risk only increases over time. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, smoking makes it more difficult to treat gingivitis and for your gums to heal.

Other causes and risk factors for gingivitis include:

  • Diabetes
  • Hormonal changes
  • Dry mouth
  • Genetics

Talk to us about your risk factors for gingivitis. We’ll discuss your options to prevent plaque and tartar, as well as other steps you can take to prevent an infection.

Signs and Symptoms

If you’re at a higher risk for gingivitis it helps to know the warning signs, so you can get the treatment you need. This is especially important for smokers who are at a much higher risk than non-smokers. Even if you aren’t at a higher risk for this form of periodontal disease, it still helps to know the signs so you can stay on top of your oral health.

Be on the lookout for:

  • Continuous bad breath
  • Gums that are red or swollen
  • Gums that are tender or bleed easily
  • Pain when chewing
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Receding gums

Contact us immediately if you suspect you have signs of gingivitis for diagnosis and treatment. If left untreated, it can develop into periodontitis and possibly result in tooth loss. 

Other Ways It Can Affect Your Health

Gingivitis and periodontitis aren’t just a danger to your oral health. If not treated immediately, they can actually affect your overall health in serious ways, such as your risk of other diseases. Recent research has found a possible link between gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease, showing that your oral and overall health are closely interlinked. 

According to Dr. Richard Kao, the president of the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP):

Periodontists have long known that a healthy mouth contributes to a healthy body, and research has suggested an association between periodontal disease and dementia conditions, such as Alzheimer’s. These recent findings present strong evidence on how periodontal disease can impact the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s disease and should highlight how crucial it is to manage periodontal disease, especially in older adults or individuals who have increased risk for dementia.

Preventing or treating gum disease is about much more than having a great smile. By keeping your mouth healthy, you’ll be protecting your overall health for years to come. 

Are you concerned about the effects gum disease may have on other aspects of your health? Check out Medical Connection: Oral Health and Alzheimer’s Disease to learn more!


Fortunately, preventing gingivitis is easier than you may think. It really comes down to maintaining good oral hygiene. That means:

  • Brushing for two minutes, twice a day
  • Flossing at least once a day after eating
  • Coming in for regular checkups and cleanings

When brushing, it’s extremely important that you’re brushing your gum line since this is an area that bacteria loves to hide. It’s also easy for food and other debris to get stuck between your teeth, becoming a breeding ground for bacteria. Flossing helps clean those hard-to-reach areas and cut down on your risk of developing gingivitis.

Have you ever wondered what the best toothbrush is? Read What Is the Best Toothbrush? to learn our tips for finding your next one.

While brushing and flossing are essential to removing plaque, no oral hygiene regimen is complete without regular visits to our dental office. This gives us an opportunity to clean your teeth professionally, catching any areas you may have missed where bacteria loves to hide. 

Gingivitis is an infection that causes inflammation of the gums. Poor oral hygiene is a major factor along with smoking. If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis and may play a role in developing Alzheimer’s disease. Fortunately, gingivitis can be prevented with regular brushing, flossing, and visits to our office for cleanings and checkups.

Are you concerned that you may be developing gingivitis? Contact us today to schedule your appointment and save your smile!

My Family Dentistry is open Monday through Thursday and every other Friday. Give us a call at (865) 947-6453 or you can schedule an appointment online.

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