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Causes of Gingivitis and Gum Disease

Gingivitis is the earliest form of gum disease and is caused by the buildup of plaque on teeth. Its symptoms are red, inflamed gums. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to more serious forms of periodontal disease(s), known as periodontitis, which can ultimately lead to tooth loss.

Improper Oral Health Care

Gingivitis is very common in children and adults and occurs when plaque is allowed to accumulate on the teeth. An inconsistent or poor oral care routine can lead to plaque buildup on the teeth.

That is why it is important to maintain good daily oral hygiene – brushing twice a day, flossing between the teeth once a day and rinsing twice a day with an effective antiseptic mouthwash.

Plaque & Tartar

Gingivitis occurs when bacteria develops into a sticky film called plaque. If plaque is not removed on a daily basis, it can cause gum tissue to become inflamed, swollen, or may bleed. This condition is called gingivitis.

If plaque is not removed, it will eventually harden and turn into tartar. Tartar is hard, crusty, and porous. It is yellow or brownish in color and appears above and below the gum line. Tartar below the gum line can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist.

Brushing twice daily, flossing regularly, and rinsing with an antiseptic mouthwash like LISTERINE® Ultraclean rinse can prevent tartar buildup above the gums and its damaging effects.

Other Oral Health Causes

Although plaque is the primary cause of gum disease, other issues can contribute as well. Crooked teeth can make for an environment more conducive to plaque buildup because they are more difficult to clean thoroughly. Family history can also be a factor, so this could raise your risk for developing gum disease.


Smoking alters the normal function of gum tissue cells and makes your mouth much more vulnerable to infection. Smoking weakens your gums’ defense and makes it much more difficult for them to recover. So whether it’s cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, or pipe smoking, tobacco use greatly increases your risk for gum disease.


As you get older, preventing the damage from gum disease becomes essential. That is why it’s important to maintain good gum health throughout your life.

Older patients can be a greater risk for oral health problems because of declining physical and/or mental status, medications, or lack of routine dental care. Maintaining healthy oral care habits like brushing twice a day, flossing once a day and rinsing with an ADA-Accepted mouthwash like LISTERINE® rinse can help maintain the health of your mouth.

If you or a loved one are struggling to keep up with your oral care routine due to physical limitations, consider trying an electric toothbrush or interdental flossers.

If you wear full or partial dentures, follow your dentist’s advice about cleaning your dentures. Brush the denture each day with a brush designed for cleaning dentures or a soft-bristled toothbrush, to remove food deposits and plaque. Your dentist may also recommend placing your dentures in a soaking solution.

Other General Health Issues

During periods of heightened or shifting hormones, the gums become more susceptible to gum disease. If pregnant, or even on a typical monthly menstrual cycle, you may notice an increase in your gums’ sensitivity.

Take extra care during these times to offset this risk. Other factors can lead to gum disease as well, like stress, certain illnesses, and genetic history.

Choose Your Solutions for Gum Disease:

All LISTERINE® mouthwashes kill bad-breath germs and freshen breath to get your whole mouth clean.

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