Gingivitis occurs when the gums or gingival become inflamed. They appear red, swollen, shiny and can bleed, especially when brushing, and is very common in adults. If it is left untreated the inflammation can spread into the surrounding tissues and may have nasty consequences including infection of the deeper tissues, tooth loss and bone damage; if this occurs the gingivitis has developed into the more serious periodontitis.

How Does it Happen?

When food is broken down in the mouth, bacteria is produced which settle around the gums and teeth, multiplying and building-up forming plaque, if plaque is not effectively removed by brushing and flossing it can develop into tartar. Tartar is a very tough substance that develops on the teeth and is difficult to remove, if left, the bacteria can cause the gums to become infected.

Plaque can be reduced by some simple alterations in every day life such as reducing the amount of sugars eaten, keeping well hydrated, stopping smoking and by ensuring an effective oral hygiene routine is practiced.

Occasionally gum disease can be a result of certain underlying illnesses such as leukaemia, or may be due to oral herpes or thrush. There are some medications, particularly some anti-depressants that can increase the risk of developing gingivitis.

Treatment for Gingivitis

Education of the correct brushing and flossing technique is vital for reducing the chance of developing gum disease. An appointment at the dentist will allow the dentist to remove the thick tartar with special instruments; the dentist or hygienist will then show the correct techniques to be used.

In the case of advanced gum disease, the tooth may need removing and the gum area thoroughly cleaned. The use of an anti-microbial mouthwash may help to reduce the build-up of bacteria, but only with the addition of a strict cleaning routine.

Research suggests a higher intake of vitamin C may help reduce gum disease; this is found in citrus fruits, berries and broccoli, alternatively a supplement may be taken.

Scientists are currently exploring the benefits of cranberries in the fight against gum disease. Although they are a source of fructose (a natural sugar found in fruits), they can help prevent bacteria from sticking to the teeth and gums, meaning plaque is less likely to form.


  • Regular brushing at least twice a day, using a correct technique is the best way to prevent the formation of plaque and the consequential gum disease.
  • Flossing after brushing will help to remove trapped debris from between the teeth that a toothbrush may be unable to reach.
  • Change your toothbrush every three months to make sure it is in optimal working order; choose a brush with medium to soft bristles and a smallish head that can reach behind all the teeth.
  • Drinking plenty of water helps to flush bacteria away and prevents the gums from becoming dry and sore.
  • Keep dentures clean and make sure they fit correctly to prevent bacterial build-up on the gums.
  • A diet rich in calcium will help to keep the bones of the jaw solid and healthy and can help support a damaged tooth or inflamed gum line.
  • Regular check-ups at the dentists will help to diagnose early signs or gingivitis and treatment can be planned to prevent the inflammation from worsening.

Gum disease is a problem that affects mainly adults, though the condition may begin in childhood from poor oral hygiene or a lack of education on correct brushing technique. It should be treated when first detected to prevent deterioration and more serious infections developing.

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