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How Do Dentists Treat Gingivitis

how do dentists treat gingivitis

If you have gingivitis, characterized by red, swollen gums that bleed when brushed you’re not alone. 

It’s thought to affect 50–90% of the adult population in the USA and the UK have this early form of gum disease (1). 

The good news is, that gingivitis is a reversible condition, it can be cured.

This post highlights how your dentist will diagnose and treat gum disease.

However, it’s easy to determine if you have gingivitis and treat it at home, without visiting a dentist

If you have swollen gums that are red and bleed, with no hard build-up of tartar the majority of healing and recovery is accomplished at home. 

Developing good oral hygiene and cleaning your teeth twice a day with the correct brushing technique is the key to treating gum disease. 

How do Dentists Diagnose and Treat Gingivitis

When you visit the dentist they will take a look in your mouth to determine if you have gum disease…they will create a treatment plan to treat your condition. Let’s find out more about this process. 

Diagnosing Gum Disease

To diagnose the cause of your inflamed, red and bleeding gums they will take a look at your gums, ask you a few questions about your medical history and may take some x-rays.

Clinical Examination

The only way to properly assess if you have gingivitis or advanced gum disease is a clinical examination of the gums and supporting structures.

The assessment only takes a few minutes. Your dentists will check for

  • Signs of infection – Redness, swelling, and puffy gingiva (that’s the technical name for the gum tissue)
  • Bleeding on probing (BOP)
  • Plaque Buildup
  • Gums that are pulling away from the teeth – pockets
  • Medical history – The dentist will ask you about your health and if you are taking any medications.
    • It’s important to tell them about any underlying health conditions and diseases such as diabetes, or pregnancy as they can affect your oral health. 
    • Medicines can also affect your gums and teeth.

During the clinical examination, they will use a special measure to check the distance between the top of the gum and where it touches the tooth (this is called a pocket). 

Healthy gums have a pocket depth of 2-4mm. If the depth is more than 4mm it may suggest your gingivitis has progressed to periodontitis, the supporting structures are being affected by the plaque and your teeth are at risk of falling out. 

If you have signs of periodontitis they will do an x-ray and complete a periodontal chart. 

Additional Tests if Periodontitis is Suspected

As well as these additional tests you may be referred to a periodontist for specialist care. 


periodontal disease x ray

A dental x-ray of your teeth and gums will be taken to determine if your alveolar bone (the bone that surrounds your teeth) and ligaments that hold your teeth to the bone have been affected.

Periodontal chart

The dentist will measure the height of the jawbone (attachment level) – this determines if any of your bone has been destroyed by bacteria.

Microbiological Tests

In some cases, the dentist will order special tests to determine if there are any harmful bacteria in your dental plaque.


Whether you have gingivitis or it has progressed to periodontitis – the stage of your gum disease will be classified according to an internationally recognised system (2).  

How Dentists Treat Gingivitis

The dentist aims to control the infection and restore gums to a healthy state. 

The goal of treatment is to remove plaque that contains harmful bacteria, and tartar which is a hardened plaque from above and below the gumline.

Treatment includes:

Under the Gum Cleaning

The dentist will usually refer you to see a hygienist for gum health treatment. 

All bacterial deposits (plaque and tartar) are removed from above and below the gum line. The hygienist will make sure she cleans down to the bottom of the pocket. The teeth will usually be polished and treated with fluoride. 

The hygienist will ask you to return in 3 to 12 months for another appointment, depending on your condition.

Dental Restoration

If you have crooked teeth the dentist may suggest that you have treatment to straighten the teeth. Straight teeth are easier to clean and ensure that plaque can’t build up and irritate the gums. Old restorations and poorly placed fillings can trap plaque and may need replacing to allow better cleaning at home.

At-Home Treatment Plan

After your hygienist appointment, you have the foundations in place to reverse your gum disease. However, the hygienist’s cleaning will go to waste without excellent Daily Self-Performed Oral Care. To prevent gingivitis from returning you will have to develop and maintain good oral hygiene at home.



Some dentists may prescribe an antimicrobial mouth rinse to help destroy bad bacteria after gingivitis has been cured.

Treating Periodontitis

If you have advanced periodontal disease, other more advanced techniques will be used to remove plaque and tartar from below the gum line and the tooth roots – more thorough treatment. If you have advanced periodontitis surgical techniques may be required.  

After treatment, the dentist will ask you to return for reassessment to see if your gums have healed and to check that there is no evidence of periodontitis or gingivitis. Professional Hygiene appointments may be required every 3 months and in some cases, antibiotics may be prescribed. 

How Long Does Gingivitis Treatment Take at Dentist?

In most cases, treatment will be carried out during one hygiene appointment that lasts 30-60 minutes. 

Within a few days of treatment, you can expect to see improvements in your gum health. In general, within 10 to 14 days gingivitis is resolved, but only with good oral hygiene habits at home, including cleaning into the gum line with a Gum Pocket Brush.

If you have periodontitis treatment will be more complex and may require several appointments. 

Can Gingivitis be Cured?

The great news is that this early gum disease can be reversed and cured, however, you need to be meticulous about your cleaning to ensure that it doesn’t return. 

If you don’t remove the bacteria each day, it can start to build up and plaque forms. This plaque will irritate the gums. Within 5 days signs of gingivitis can start to show. 

If gingivitis isn’t treated it can progress to periodontitis. This more advanced gum disease destroys the alveolar bone and soft tissues. Any bone loss cannot be replaced, so the harm is irreversible. BUT we can be stop it from progressing with professional care. 

How To Tell if Gingivitis is Healing

You can tell that your gingivitis is healing as your gums will no longer bleed when you brush or floss your teeth. The gums will be hard and pink in color and you won’t suffer from soreness.

Lifestyle & Treating Gum Disease At Home

Whilst the hygienist can remove plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line, if you fail to keep your gums clean at home gum disease will return. You need to develop excellent oral hygiene at home, stop smoking, reduce sugar intake and limit alcohol consumption.  

In Summary

We’ve highlighted above how dentists treat gingivitis but did you know you can spot the signs of gingivitis at home (red, swollen gums that bleed), and unless you have a build up of tartar, the majority of the healing and recovery is done at home without the need for a dentist. 


  1. Prevalence | Background information | Gingivitis and periodontitis | CKS | NICE.
  2. A new classification scheme for periodontal and peri-implant diseases and conditions – Introduction and key changes from the 1999 classification

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