What are the Causes of Gingivitis?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2018
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Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease which can cause the gums to become inflamed, sore, and red, and to bleed easily. The causes of gingivitis can be traced to the buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth, although there are several secondary factors which can make certain individuals especially susceptible to the condition. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to more serious forms of gum disease and even tooth loss. Luckily, the condition can be easily eliminated with help from the dentist and a bit of personal discipline.

The main causes of gingivitis are plaque and tartar, substances made from a combination of food particles and the bacteria which are naturally present in the mouth. When food and bacteria initially combine, they form plaque, a sticky material that clings to the teeth and gathers at the gum line. If plaque is not removed from the teeth, it turns into tartar, a hardened substance which can become deposited beneath the gum line. Plaque and tartar can both irritate the gums, leading to outbreaks of gingivitis.

There are also several potential secondary causes of gingivitis, or factors which can increase one’s risk of developing the condition. Behaviors which encourage the growth of plaque are perhaps the most prevalent secondary causes of gingivitis. These include failure to brush the teeth regularly, eating sugary foods, and smoking. Other possible secondary causes of gingivitis include taking certain medications and undergoing hormonal changes, both which can lead to gum irritation.


If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into more serious mouth problems. It can progress into an advanced form of gum disease known as periodontitis. This disease can affect not only the gum tissue, but also the bone beneath the gums, often causing unsightly recession and discoloration of the gum tissue and even tooth loss.

Luckily, gingivitis can be easily eliminated with a combination of dental attention and good mouth care habits. Generally, the condition will gradually subside once irritating buildup has been removed from the teeth. Therefore, those who suspect gingivitis should see a dentist as soon as possible for thorough plaque and tartar removal. To prevent new buildups from forming, it is important to continually practice good dental hygiene. The teeth should be brushed at least two times each day and flossed at least once a day, and every individual should visit his or her dentist for a check-up at least once every 12 months.



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