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5 Early Warning Signs and Symptoms of Gingivitis

Healthy gingivaHave you ever wondered, “What are the signs of gingivitis?”

Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease. The early signs of gingivitis can be mild, but it is important to watch out for these symptoms. Without proper treatment, gingivitis can progress to advanced periodontal disease, which can cause you to lose your teeth.

Here are the five major warning signs of early gum disease:

1. Inflamed Gums

Gingivitis can cause your gum tissue to become swollen and irritated. In some cases, your gums may be tender or painful. Your gum tissue may also have areas where it appears red, instead of its normal pink.

Why does this happen? Poor oral hygiene results in a buildup of plaque and in between your teeth. The overgrowth of bacteria associated with plaque in turn causes gum irritation.

2. Bleeding When You Brush

Sometimes, people with gingivitis will notice that their gums bleed very easily, and will experience bleeding when they brush or floss. It probably won’t be a lot of blood; you will likely just notice a little red or pink on your toothbrush or when you rinse your mouth.

This symptom is related to the inflammation-causing bacteria associated with gingivitis.

By Apple Dental [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

3. Receding Gums

“Long teeth” is a sign of gingivitis caused by pockets of bacteria that form in between your teeth and your gums. These colonies of bacteria under the gumline cause your gums to recede from your teeth, giving your teeth an elongated appearance.

With advanced gum disease, this symptom will be more pronounced, but during gingivitis, it’s typically mild. According to WebMD, the first sign of receding gums is often sensitive teeth. You might also be able to feel a notch by your gumline. You can see what this looks like in the early gingivitis pictures in this post.

4. Bad breath

In addition to inflammation, bleeding, and gum recession, gingivitis bacteria also causes bad breath, or halitosis. People will often try to use mints or cosmetic mouthwash to cover up bad breath, but this doesn’t address the root cause — halitosis is a sign from your body that something is wrong.

For some people, bad breath from gingivitis may also cause a bad taste in your mouth.

5. Puss Might Appear

A severe warning sign of gingivitis is the appearance of pus between your teeth and gums. The appearance of this fluid might cause the gums to swell, resulting in painful pressure on your teeth and gums.

This thick, yellow fluid is the result of an infection in the area between your teeth and gums. In severe cases, it could indicate something much more serious, including a gum abscess or a periodontal abscess.

What Causes Gingivitis?

The most common cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene, specifically, the buildup of plaque on the teeth that causes an inflammation of the gums.

If plaque isn’t removed on a daily basis, it can lead to tartar buildup, which collects bacteria and makes it more difficult to remove plaque.

Again, if tartar isn’t removed frequently, mor problems can occur, specifically, the development of gingivitis. Gingiva is the area of your gums around the base of your teeth, and when it becomes inflamed, swollen, or bleeds easily, you might have gingivitis.

How to Prevent Gingivitis

Preventing gingivitis doesn’t require much:

  • Brush and floss twice daily
  • Maintain regular checkups with your dentist
  • Avoid sugary foods in favor of a well-balanced diet that consists of plenty of vegetables and calcium to build healthier teeth
  • Avoid ingesting foods and beverages that are harmful to your teeth like soda.
  • Don’t smoke or chew tobacco

What to do if You Have These Early Gingivitis Signs

With proper oral care, gingivitis can be reversed, thereby stopping gum disease from progressing and causing permanent damage. Here are the things you need to do if you have any gingivitis signs:

  • Visit your dentist for an examination and diagnosis
  • Schedule a routine dental cleaning (which you should be getting every six months)
  • Ask your dentist about periodontal therapy to remove bacteria from under the gumline
  • Use an antibacterial mouthrinse as directed by your dentist

Poor oral hygiene is the main reason for gingivitis. The most important thing you can do to prevent and reverse gingivitis is brush and floss regularly to prevent plaque buildup and be on the lookout for gingivitis signs. If you need more encouragement to start flossing, read my blog post The 7 Scary Things That Happen When You Don’t Floss.

Eli Thornock
I was born and raised in eastern Washington and I received my dental training at the University of Washington School of Dentistry, Class of 2011. Since then, I have been practicing in a private practice setting and have also completed more than one hundred hours of continuing education.
Eli Thornock
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