Diagnosis

Dentists usually diagnose gingivitis based on:

  • Review of your dental and medical history and conditions that may contribute to your symptoms.
  • Examination of your teeth, gums, mouth and tongue for signs of plaque and inflammation.
  • Measuring the pocket depth of the groove between your gums and your teeth by inserting a dental probe beside your tooth beneath your gum line, usually at several sites throughout your mouth. In a healthy mouth, the pocket depth is usually between 1 and 3 millimeters (mm). Pockets deeper than 4 mm may indicate gum disease.
  • Dental X-rays to check for bone loss in areas where your dentist sees deeper pockets.
  • Other tests as needed. If it's not clear what has caused your gingivitis, your dentist may recommend that you get a medical evaluation to check for underlying health conditions. If your gum disease is advanced, your dentist may refer you to a specialist in gum diseases (periodontist).

Treatment

Prompt treatment usually reverses symptoms of gingivitis and prevents its progression to more serious gum disease and tooth loss. You have the best chance for successful treatment when you also adopt a daily routine of good oral care and stop tobacco use.

Professional gingivitis care includes:

  • Professional dental cleaning. Your initial professional cleaning will include removing all traces of plaque, tartar and bacterial products — a procedure known as scaling and root planing. Scaling removes tartar and bacteria from your tooth surfaces and beneath your gums. Root planning removes the bacterial products produced by inflammation, smooths the root surfaces, discouraging further buildup of tartar and bacteria, and allows proper healing. The procedure may be performed using instruments, a laser or an ultrasonic device.
  • Dental restoration, if needed. Misaligned teeth or poorly fitting crowns, bridges or other dental restorations may irritate your gums and make it harder to remove plaque during daily oral care. If problems with your teeth or dental restorations contribute to your gingivitis, your dentist may recommend fixing these problems.
  • Ongoing care. Gingivitis usually clears up after a thorough professional cleaning — as long as you continue good oral hygiene at home. Your dentist will help you plan an effective at-home program and a schedule of regular professional checkups and cleaning.

If you're consistent with your home oral hygiene, you should see the return of pink, healthy gum tissue within days or weeks.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Steps you can take at home to prevent and reverse gingivitis include:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day or, better yet, after every meal or snack.
  • Use a soft toothbrush and replace it at least every three to four months.
  • Consider using an electric toothbrush, which may be more effective at removing plaque and tartar.
  • Floss daily.
  • Use a mouth rinse to help reduce plaque between your teeth.
  • Supplement brushing and flossing with an interdental cleaner, such as a dental pick, interdental brush or dental stick specially designed to clean between your teeth.
  • Get regular professional dental cleanings on a schedule recommended by your dentist.
  • Don't smoke or chew tobacco.

Preparing for your appointment

Follow your dentist's recommended schedule for regular checkups. If you notice any symptoms of gingivitis, make an appointment with your dentist. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment and know what to do to prepare.

What you can do

To get ready for your appointment, make a list of:

  • Any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for your appointment
  • Key personal information, such as any medical conditions you may have
  • All medications you take, including vitamins, herbs or other supplements, and the dosages
  • Questions to ask your dentist to make the most of your time together

Some questions to ask your dentist may include:

  • Do you think gingivitis is causing my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests, if any, do I need?
  • Will my dental insurance cover the treatments you're recommending?
  • What are the alternatives to the approach you're suggesting?
  • What steps can I take at home to keep my gums and teeth healthy?
  • What kind of toothpaste, toothbrush and dental floss do you recommend?
  • Do you recommend using mouthwash?
  • Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can have?
  • What websites do you recommend?

Don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.

What to expect from your dentist

Your dentist may ask you questions about your symptoms, such as:

  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How often do you brush your teeth?
  • Do you use dental floss? How often?
  • How often do you see a dentist?
  • What medical conditions do you have?
  • What medications do you take?