Gingivitis is a common and mild form of gum disease (periodontal disease) that causes irritation, redness and swelling (inflammation) of your gums. Because gingivitis can be mild, you may not be aware that you have the condition. But it's important to take gingivitis seriously and treat it promptly. Gingivitis can lead to much more serious gum disease (periodontitis) and eventual tooth loss.

The most common cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene. Good oral health habits, such as brushing at least twice a day, flossing daily and getting regular dental checkups, can help prevent gingivitis.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Healthy gums are firm and pale pink. If your gums are puffy, dusky red and bleed easily, you may have gingivitis. Because gingivitis is seldom painful, you can have gingivitis without even knowing it.

Signs and symptoms of gingivitis include:

  • Swollen gums
  • Soft, puffy gums
  • Receding gums
  • Occasionally, tender gums
  • Gums that bleed easily when you brush or floss, sometimes seen as redness or pinkness on your brush or floss
  • A change in the color of your gums from a healthy pink to dusky red
  • Bad breath

When to see a dentist

Most dentists recommend regular checkups to identify gingivitis, cavities (caries) and other dental conditions before they cause troubling symptoms and lead to more serious problems. If you notice any signs and symptoms of gingivitis, schedule an appointment with your dentist. The sooner you seek care, the better your chances of reversing damage from gingivitis and preventing its progression to periodontitis.

© 1998-2015 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER). All rights reserved. Terms of use