11 May 2019
May 11, 2019

Gingivitis: What You Need to Know

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In the United States, roughly 80% of all adults have some form of gum disease. Gingivitis is the earliest, most treatable stage of gum disease. It is caused by a sticky mix of bacteria and food debris known as plaque. If not quickly removed, plaque hardens into tartar, irritating the gums and raising the risk for infection. Gingivitis that is left untreated can worsen into periodontitis, attacking the soft tissues and eventually the bone that supports the teeth. The disease can eventually cause tooth loss, and even put you at risk for systemic illnesses.

Gingivitis: What You Need to Know

Signs of Gingivitis

Fortunately, gingivitis is easy to treat when it is promptly noticed. Here is what to look out for:

Red, Swollen, Tender, or Receding Gums

Healthy gums are firm and even, and they are pink or coral in color. If your gums are tender to the touch, or appear red or swollen, you might have gingivitis. Your gums may even start to recede, making your teeth appear longer.

Bleeding or Pus-Filled Gums

If your gums bleed when you brush or floss your teeth, gingivitis is likely the cause. You might even notice some bleeding when eating crunchy foods. Small swollen spots that are squishy or hard may appear along your gums. These are pockets of pus that must be treated before they worsen into painful abscesses.

Persistent Bad Breath

Transient bad breath is common, but if yours does not respond to mouthwash or breath mints, it could be a sign of gingivitis. You may also have an odd taste in your mouth from the bacterial infection.

Health Risks of Gum Disease

In addition to putting your teeth at risk, allowing gingivitis to go untreated can raise your risk of developing a systemwide infection. Here are some of the most common:


Gum disease does not cause diabetes. However, if you have diabetes and allow gingivitis to progress, the infection can make it more difficult to control your blood glucose levels. Some people with advanced gum disease are unable to bring their blood glucose down to a safe range, increasing the likelihood of diabetic complications.

Heart Disease

Research shows a close link between gum disease and heart disease, likely due to the inflammation that gum disease causes. To protect your heart, have gingivitis treated as soon as possible.


Some studies show that people with gum disease are at heightened risk for a stroke. This appears to be particularly true for a type of stroke known as acute cerebrovascular ischemia.

Respiratory Disease

Bacteria in the oral cavity could be aspirated into the lungs, raising the risk for respiratory diseases such as pneumonia. While this could happen to anyone, the elevated volume of bacteria in those with gingivitis or periodontitis increases the risk.

Gingivitis is common, mild, and easy to treat. Left unchecked, though, it will continue to worsen, putting both your teeth and your health at risk. If you have signs of gingivitis, call your dentist right away. Be sure to keep your regular cleaning appointments even if you don’t currently have gum disease, as prevention is always the best solution.

Ready to Get Started?

If you are ready to take the first steps toward improving your dental health, we invite you to contact Family Dental Care of Bellevue today at 425-643-5778 to make an appointment for your initial consultation.

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