Gingivitis is an extremely common disease in which the gums become red and swollen and bleed easily. It might not be noticed in its early stages because it causes little pain. However, if it’s left untreated may progress to periodontitis. This is a more severe gum disease that can result in tooth loss.

This disease may be caused by:

• Plaque

• Drugs

• Vitamin Deficiency

• Fungal Infections

• Viral Infections

• Pregnancy

• Menopause Leukemia

• An Impacted Tooth


The most common cause of this disease is inadequate brushing and flossing. Plaque is a film-like substance made up primarily of bacteria. Plaque remains along the gum line of the teeth without proper brushing. If it remains on the teeth for more than 72 hours, it hardens into tarter, which cannot be completely removed by brushing and flossing.

The gums appear red rather than a healthy pink. They swell and become movable instead of being firm and tight against the teeth. The gums may bleed more easily, especially while brushing or eating.


An overgrowth of gum tissue can be caused by some drugs. It’s then more difficult to remove plaque and gingivitis often develops.

Drugs than can cause an overgrowth of gum tissue are:

• Phenytoin (trade name Dilantin) – antisiezure medication

• Cyclosporine – organ transplant medication

• Calcium Channels Blockers – blood pressure and heart medication

• Oral or injectable contraceptives can aggravate gingivitis

Caused by Vitamin Deficiency

This gum disease can be caused by vitamin deficiencies, in rare cases. Vitamin C deficiency, or scurvy, can lead to inflamed, bleeding gums. Niacin deficiency, or pellagra, can also cause inflamed, bleeding gums and a predisposition to some mouth infections, such as thrush or glossitis, inflammation of the tongue.

Caused by Infections

Viral and fungal infections can cause this gum disease. Acute herpetic gingivostomatitis is a painful viral infection of the gums and other parts of the mouth caused by the herpes virus. The gums turn bright red and many small white or yellow sores form inside the mouth. It usually gets better in 2 weeks without treatment.

Fungi commonly grow in the mouth in very small amounts. If your overall health changes or you are on antibiotics the number of fungi in your mouth can increase. Thrush, or candidiasis, is a fungal infection in which the overgrowth of fungi, particularly Candida albicans, forms a white film that irritates the gums.

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Caused by Pregnancy

Because of hormonal changes, pregnancy can worsen mild gingivitis. Also, during pregnancy, a minor irritation, often a buildup of tartar, may cause a lumplike overgrowth of gum tissue, called a pregnancy tumor. The bloated tissue bleeds easily if injured.

Caused by Menopause

Menopause can cause a condition called desquamative gingivitis . This is a poorly understood, painful condition that occurs most commonly in postmenopausal women. The outer layers of the gums separate from the underlying tissue, exposing nerve endings. These layers can be rubbed away with a cotton swab or blown off with a dentist’s air syringe, because they are so loose.

Caused by Leukemia

Leukemia can cause this gum disease. In about 25% of children with leukemia, it’s the first sign of disease. The gums appear red and bleed easily. It’s caused by an infiltration of leukemia cells into the gums.

Caused by an Impacted Tooth

This gum disease can develop in the gums surrounding the crown of an impacted tooth. This condition is called pericoronitis. The gum swells over the tooth that has not fully emerged. The flap of gum over the partially emerged tooth can trap fluids, bits of food, and bacteria. It most commonly occurs with wisdom teeth, particularly the lower ones.

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The information on is not offered for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of any disease or disorder nor have any statements herein been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We strongly encourage you to discuss topics of concern with your health care provider.

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