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What Are The Early Signs of Gingivitis to Watch For?

Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease that can be reversible when you get it treated quickly. Review these signs and symptoms to watch out for.

Last updated on

December 26, 2023

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What Are The Early Signs of Gingivitis to Watch For?

Brushing your teeth is important for maintaining your dental health, naturally. But it also helps keep every structure in your mouth looking tip-top, including your gums. In fact, your gum health is directly related to the appearance and the health of your teeth.

Poor oral hygiene, and other risk factors, can lead to gum disease. And an early, mild form of periodontal (gum) disease is known as gingivitis. While gingivitis can lead to serious forms of gum/periodontal disease down the line, there are things you can do early on once you know the warning signs.

Let’s take a look at the early warning signs of gingivitis as well as how you can work to prevent or treat gum disease in the future.

What Is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is the earliest stage of periodontitis or gum disease. This health condition occurs when the gingiva (part of the gum around the tooth’s base) swells and becomes inflamed. 

This inflammation is due to plaque developing on the teeth, which hardens into tartar. This becomes a feeding ground for bacteria that can wear away tooth enamel and affect your gums' health.

Men, or individuals assigned male at birth, are more likely to develop some form of gum disease, though it’s not entirely known why. Researchers think it might be due to hormonal changes or because men are more likely to get a related condition. People without access to dental care for economic reasons, as well as individuals who smoke, are more likely to get gum disease.

Gingivitis can be successfully reversed before it becomes too severe.

What Are the Early Signs of Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is a very common oral health disease that has some signature characteristics. 

Some warning signs of gingivitis include:

  • Swollen or puffy gums: If your gums appear to puff up the gum line where it meets the tooth, it’s likely inflamed due to an infection.
  • Bleeding gums: Your gums should be strong enough to withstand the force applied from brushing and flossing. Bleeding from these activities, or even chewing tough foods, is usually a sign that gum disease is beginning.
  • Bad breath: Gingivitis is caused by bacteria. When this bacteria runs rampant in your mouth in high amounts, it can cause your breath to take on a foul odor.
  • Dark gums: Your gums should be a lush, pink color. If they start to darken and become more of a deep red, it might be a sign of early gum disease.
  • Receding gums: If the gums start to recede away from your teeth, exposing more of the tooth’s root, it might be because of gum disease.
  • Tender gums: Gums that feel tender to the touch are more than likely affected by an infection.

What Are the Symptoms of Gum Disease?

While these same symptoms above can still be present in more severe periodontitis, gingivitis symptoms tend to be more noticeable. 

Signs of severe gum disease include:

  • Loose Teeth: When the gums become severely infected, they might not be strong enough to support the teeth. This can cause loose teeth that could eventually fall out. Your teeth might also shift out of alignment.
  • Pain While Chewing: You should be able to chew tough foods without comfort. If eating causes discomfort, it could be a sign of gum disease.
  • Pus in Between the Teeth: Pus might form in between your teeth or along the gum line. This is never normal and is likely a sign of a serious infection.

Why Should Gum Disease Be Treated?

If gingivitis is left untreated, it can easily transform into serious forms of gum disease called periodontitis. Some serious complications can occur.

For one, chronically inflamed gums have been associated with respiratory diseases, diabetes, coronary artery disease, arthritis, and even stroke. There is research that suggests it’s because some of the bacteria formed from gum disease can enter the bloodstream, affecting internal organs and other parts of the body.

Another disease that could come from untreated periodontitis is called necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, or NUG. This is a severe form of gingivitis that causes painful, bleeding ulcerations on the gum. It’s rare and usually only occurs in developing countries with poor nutrition and living conditions.

How Is Gingivitis Treated?

Gingivitis is treated by controlling the infection and restoring your teeth and gums to their former appearance. While removing a build-up of plaque and tartar and giving it some time is usually enough to treat minor cases, there are some other options for more moderate cases.

  • Scaling and root planing: When you go to a dentist for a cleaning, they use a tool to scrape tartar off your teeth. This procedure is very similar, except it reaches deeper into the gum and removes pockets between the gums and teeth that can sometimes form from excessive plaque build-up. When plaque is trapped in these pockets, it cannot be removed by brushing alone.
  • Antimicrobial mouthwash: You might be prescribed a special mouthwash that destroys and kills the bacteria in your mouth which can otherwise lead to gum disease.
  • Improved oral hygiene: You can usually clear up minor cases of gingivitis with a good dental cleaning, but you need to keep up the good work at home with regular brushing and flossing.
  • Dental repair: Crowns, veneers, bridges, and fillings that don’t fit in the mouth properly can be harder to clean. Your dentist might need to do some readjustments to double-check that their dental work is working and your mouth is a clean, healthy environment.

What is the Cost of Getting Gingivitis Treated?

The cost of gingivitis treatment can vary based on how severe the condition is. If it’s not too bad, you’ll probably be fine after a good routine cleaning. But it’s gotten a bit worse; you might need some subsequent procedures. Either way, prices have the potential to skyrocket depending on your geographic location and the severity of the disease.

The out-of-pocket costs of many dental procedures can be completely inaccessible for people, especially for those without insurance. And considering only about half of the population actually has dental coverage, this leaves millions of Americans without the oral care they need to look and feel their best.

That’s why Flossy is here to help you save money even without dental insurance. We’re a pay-as-you-go dental service where you’re only charged for the services you receive. You won’t pay monthly premiums, annual fees, or any sort of membership dues. 

The prices you see for your dental care are the prices you get, and you can save up to 50% on the cost of common dental procedures when compared to the national average.

We test our providers against rigorous criteria to ensure you get five-star, top-quality care. From accreditation from top dental programs to the use of new, modern technology, our providers are people you can trust despite our low prices and easy access.

So don’t let the cost of treatment prevent you from getting it. From routine cleanings to teeth whitening, from root canals to gum disease correction, find a dentist and get started today without a waiting period.

How To Prevent Gingivitis

The best treatment for gingivitis is to just prevent it from happening in the first place, and you can do that by practicing healthy oral habits. Firstly, this includes brushing and flossing properly.

Brush your teeth for at least two minutes twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Floss your teeth at least once a day to remove debris in between the teeth, which is where gum disease can occur most frequently.

Additionally, be sure to see your dentist regularly, every six months. This is useful because your dentist can help you overcome early signs of gum disease before they develop into something a lot more serious. Plus, these routine cleanings allow your dentist to remove layers of plaque and tartar that can otherwise lead to gum disease. Hardened plaque can only be removed by the professional tools of a dental hygienist.

Finally, healthy eating, exercise, and other lifestyle habits can help to manage your blood sugar, which is important for reducing the risk of diabetes that can otherwise have an effect on your gum tissue health.

Gum Disease FAQs

Gingivitis can be a stressful thing to deal with, but we’ve got some answers to some other burning questions that you might be wondering about this precursor to gum disease.

Is Gingivitis Contagious?

Gingivitis itself is not a contagious disease that can be spread from person to person. However, the bacteria that causes gingivitis can be spread from people through saliva-to-saliva contact. So while it’s very unlikely you’d give it to someone else, you’re more likely to develop it if you happen to have mouth-to-mouth contact with a person who has gum disease.

Is Gingivitis Permanent?

The good news is that early stages of gingivitis are pretty easily reversible as long as you get a deep cleaning from a dental professional and practice healthy habits down the line. The only true way to cure gingivitis is by practicing proper oral health techniques all the time. This also includes healthy habits like quitting smoking and chewing tobacco.

When Should I See a Dentist?

There’s never a bad time to see a dentist if you’re feeling a little bit stressed out regarding your oral health. However, if you notice bleeding, your gums are causing discomfort, or if your teeth start to feel like they are becoming loose, seek dental advice as soon as you can. Otherwise, aim to see your dentist for twice-yearly check-ups to take optimal care of your teeth. 

Healthy Gums and Dental Healthcare: What To Know

Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease commonly caused by bacterial growth along the teeth and gums. Gingivitis is easily treated in its early forms, but it can progress into potentially serious gum disease if left unattended.

There are many symptoms of gingivitis, though the early signs include:

  • Swollen gums
  • Puffy gums
  • Red gums
  • Painful gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Receding gums
  • Dark gums

You can get gingivitis treated through most routine cleanings at your dentist’s office, as well as good oral hygiene that’s continued after treatment. The problem is that many people can’t afford treatment without access to dental insurance programs.

No insurance? Perfect. Flossy is a pay-as-you-go service where you only pay for the services you receive. From gum disease treatment to teeth whitening, you can save up to 50% on the cost of common dental treatments without needing to worry about monthly fees or dues. Download the Flossy App and start smiling.


Gingivitis: Symptoms and How To Treat It | Cleveland Clinic

Gingivitis - Symptoms and causes | Mayo Clinic

Scaling and Root Planing for Gum Disease | ADA

Regional Variation in Private Dental Coverage and Care Among Dentate Adults Aged 18–64 in the United States, 2014–2017 | CDC

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