Gingivitis, the earliest manifestation of gum disease, can cause redness, swelling, bleeding, and sometimes tenderness of the gums. Inflammation is usually limited to the surface tissue. If the inflammation is very mild, your dentist may detect it even before you notice any discomfort.

Gingivitis usually results from poor oral hygiene. With no brushing at all, a previously healthy mouth will begin to show evidence of gingivitis in less than three weeks. Some factors can make gum disease more likely or accelerate its pace. These include:

  • Hormonal changes associated with puberty, pregnancy, or menopause

  • Certain medications for epilepsy, heart disease, and other chronic conditions

  • Poor nutrition

  • Poorly fitting braces, dentures, or restorations

  • Smoking

  • Diabetes

  • HIV infection

Gingivitis is almost always correctable when it’s caught early. The first step is a thorough professional cleaning to remove plaque and tartar from the sulcus. This treatment, along with better brushing and flossing habits, usually does the trick.

Several rare forms of gingivitis are brought on by factors other than plaque accumulation. These forms of the disease include:

  • Acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, also called trench mouth or Vincent’s infection

  • Desquamative gingivitis, a rare form targeting primarily postmenopausal women

  • Gingivostomatitis, painful ulcers on the gums and oral mucosa caused by the herpes simplex virus

  • Pericoronitis, the inflammation of the gum around an impacted wisdom tooth

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