Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. Depending on the cause, gingivitis may be of short duration (acute) or persist for years (chronic). It causes varying degrees of swelling and redness, and the patient's gums tend to bleed when he is eating or brushing his teeth.
Usually it also causes halitosis. In advanced cases the teeth may become so loose that they must be extracted.
Anything that injures the gums may produce gingivitis. The most common cause is the buildup of dental plaque on the exposed surfaces of the teeth. Physical injury to the gums may also be caused by too vigorous brushing, or by misusing a toothpick. Other causes of injury are ragged edges of decayed teeth, ill-fitting dentures, and broken or worn-out fillings, crowns, or bridges.
Systemic hormonal conditions, such as menstruation and pregnancy, can cause a type of gingivitis known as hormonal gingivitis. Necrotizing gingivitis, caused by a bacterial infection, is characterized by fever, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, general malaise, and red, swollen, painful gums. Gingivitis may also accompany such diseases as syphilis, tuberculosis, histoplasmosis, mononucleosis, and pemphigus.