Dentists usually diagnose gingivitis based on:

  • Review of your dental and medical history and conditions that may contribute to your symptoms.
  • Looking at your teeth, gums, mouth and tongue for signs of plaque, irritation or swelling.
  • Measuring the pocket depth of the groove between your gums and teeth. A dental probe is inserted beside your tooth beneath your gumline, usually at several sites in your mouth. In a healthy mouth, the pocket depth is between 1 and 3 millimeters (mm). Pockets deeper than 4 mm may mean 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 other health conditions. If your gum disease is further along, your dentist may refer you to a periodontist. This is a dentist with advanced training who specializes in treating gum diseases.


Prompt treatment usually reverses symptoms of gingivitis and prevents it from leading to more-serious gum disease and tooth loss. You have the best chance for successful treatment when you also practice good oral care daily and stop using tobacco.

Professional gingivitis care includes:

  • Dental cleaning. Your first professional cleaning will include the removal of all traces of plaque, tartar and bacterial products. This procedure is known as scaling and root planing. Scaling removes tartar and bacteria from the surface of your teeth and under your gums. Root planing removes the bacterial products produced by swelling and irritation, and it smooths the root surfaces. This discourages further buildup of tartar and bacteria, and it allows proper healing. The procedure may be done using instruments, a laser or an ultrasonic device.
  • Any needed dental repairs. Crooked teeth or poorly fitting crowns, bridges or other dental repairs may irritate your gums and make it harder to remove plaque during daily oral care. If problems with your teeth or dental repairs play a part in 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 care at home. Your dentist will help you plan an effective at-home program and a schedule of regular checkups and cleaning.

If you follow your dentist's suggestions and regularly brush and floss your teeth, healthy gum tissue should return 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 months.
  • Think about using an electric toothbrush, which may remove plaque and tartar better.
  • Floss daily. If you have a hard time handling dental floss, try a floss holder. Or floss with a dental pick, brush or stick designed to clean between your teeth. Work with your dentist or dental hygienist to determine the best dental tool that fits your needs.
  • Use a mouth rinse to reduce plaque 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:

  • Symptoms you have, including any that don't seem related to the reason for your appointment.
  • Key personal information, such as any medical conditions you may have.
  • All medicines you take, including vitamins, herbs or other supplements, and the doses.
  • 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 do I need?
  • Will my dental insurance cover the treatments you're recommending?
  • What are the options 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?

Do not 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 feeling symptoms?
  • Have you been feeling these symptoms all of the time or only once in a while?
  • How often do you brush your teeth?
  • How often do you floss your teeth?
  • How often do you see a dentist?
  • What medical conditions do you have?
  • What medicines do you take?

Preparing and expecting questions will help you make the most of your time.

Nov. 16, 2023
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