Healthdirect Free Australian health advice you can count on.

Medical problem? Call 1800 022 222. If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately

healthdirect Australia is a free service where you can talk to a nurse or doctor who can help you know what to do.

beginning of content


4-minute read

Key points:

  • Gingivitis is an early form of gum disease.
  • It occurs when plaque builds up on your teeth along the gum line.
  • Bleeding gums is a common sign of gingivitis, and swollen or bleeding gums, or loose teeth also may occur.
  • If you have gingivitis, the earlier you treat it, the better.
  • See your dentist if you notice signs of gingivitis.

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is an early form of gum disease. It occurs when plaque builds up on your teeth along the gum line.

You remove plaque by brushing your teeth correctly, but if it builds up it can irritate your gums and may cause them to bleed and swell. Sometimes the plaque becomes hard, called calculus or tartar. If this happens, you will need to see a dentist to have it removed.

Gingivitis is common — about 1 in 5 Australians has gingivitis.

What are the signs and symptoms of gingivitis?

Bleeding gums is a common sign of gingivitis. Gum tenderness, redness and puffiness also commonly occur in people with gingivitis.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes gingivitis?

Gingivitis is caused by bacteria in the plaque on your teeth irritating your gums. Plaque can build up if you do not brush your teeth regularly or take good care of your oral health. If you have an existing health condition, such as diabetes you are more likely to develop gingivitis.

When should I see my dentist?

You should see your dentist if you notice signs of gingivitis, such as swollen or bleeding gums, or loose teeth. If you have gingivitis, the earlier you treat it, the better.

How is gingivitis diagnosed?

Your dentist will examine your mouth with an instrument to measure the spaces between the teeth and the gums. This shows your dentist how healthy your gums and teeth are.

How is gingivitis treated?

Gingivitis is treated by removing any plaque from your teeth. You can normally reverse gingivitis because it does not cause damage to the teeth or bone.

Calculus (hard plaque) will need to be removed professionally by a dentist. At home, you will need to keep brushing your teeth with a soft toothbrush to get rid of the plaque and bacteria that cause gingivitis. Brushing your teeth correctly is important, and your dentist will instruct you on the best way to do this.

Can I prevent gingivitis?

Taking care of your mouth helps prevent gingivitis. Even if your gums are bleeding and inflamed, it’s important to keep brushing your teeth to reverse the condition.

You can also improve the health of your mouth by:

  • eating a healthy balanced diet
  • avoiding sugary and fatty foods
  • brushing your teeth after every meal
  • drinking water containing fluoride
  • avoiding or stopping smoking

What are the complications of gingivitis?

Without treatment, gingivitis can get worse and develop into a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis. This can cause serious problems such as abscesses, receding gums and tooth loss.

Symptoms of periodontitis include:

  • swollen, red gums
  • bleeding gums
  • receding gums
  • bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
  • loose teeth
  • new spaces between your teeth
  • tender teeth, especially when you bite

See your dentist if you have any of the symptoms of periodontitis.

Resources and support

Find out more about looking after your teeth on the Australian Dental Association’s website.

Get advice on mouth care.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: May 2022

Back To Top

Need more information?

These trusted information partners have more on this topic.

Top results

Gingivitis & gum disease: children & teens | Raising Children Network

Symptoms of gingivitis or gum disease include bleeding gums. If you think your child has gingivitis, see a dentist. Prevent gingivitis with good dental care.

Read more on website

Gum diseases - Australian Dental Association

Periodontal diseases are a wide range of diseases that affect the gums. The most common types of periodontal disease are gingivitis and periodontitis

Read more on website

Bleeding gums -

Bleeding gums are something many people notice when brushing their teeth or flossing, however, healthy gums rarely bleed.

Read more on myDr website

Tooth decay and gum disease

Tooth decay and gum disease are the 2 main types of dental disease, but good oral hygiene can prevent them both.

Read more on WA Health website

Oral health | Your Fertility

During pregnancy, a woman's oral health can affect her health and the health of the baby

Read more on Your Fertility website

Looking after your teeth during pregnancy

Hormonal changes during pregnancy increase your risk of having dental problems. Find out about caring for your teeth during pregnancy.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Bad breath in children and teenagers | Raising Children Network

It’s normal for children to have bad breath when they wake up. Sometimes medical issues can cause bad breath. Good dental hygiene usually prevents bad breath.

Read more on website

Smoking and vaping - Australian Dental Association

Smoking and vaping is associated with a higher risk of gum disease, tooth loss, complications after dental treatments, and users are more likely to develop oral cancers.

Read more on website

Oral Health and Pregnancy - Australian Dental Association

Maintaining good oral health during pregnancy is important in ensuring whole-body health and the health of your unborn baby.

Read more on website

Orofacial granulomatosis - Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy (ASCIA)

Orofacial granulomatosis (OFG: also known as Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome, Cheilitis Granulomatosis, and Schuermann`s Glossitis Granulomatosa) is an uncommon inflammatory condition effecting the face and lips.

Read more on ASCIA – Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy website

Healthdirect 24hr 7 days a week hotline

24 hour health advice you can count on

1800 022 222

Government Accredited with over 140 information partners

We are a government-funded service, providing quality, approved health information and advice

Australian Government, health department logo ACT Government logo New South Wales government, health department logo Northen Territory Government logo Government of South Australia, health department logo Tasmanian government logo Victorian government logo Government of Western Australia, health department logo

Healthdirect Australia acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and their continuing connection to land, sea and community. We pay our respects to the Traditional Owners and to Elders both past and present.