What is gingivitis? Gingivitis is the name of a mild form of periodontal (gum) disease. The disease causes irritation, redness, and swelling (inflammation) of the gums due to plaque buildup along and under the gum line. Bacteria live and flourish in plaque, which sticks to the teeth and attracts more bacterial growth. Gingivitis is a very common gum disease in the United States. It occurs more often in men than women. Gingivitis develops due to several factors. Most commonly, people acquire gingivitis from poor oral hygiene resulting in a buildup of plaque along and under the gum line. Once the teeth become covered in plaque, inflammation of the gum and the possibility of infection result. This may lead to a more severe form of gum disease known as periodontitis, which, left untreated, may destroy the tissues that support the teeth, including the gums, the periodontal ligaments, and the tooth sockets (alveolar bone). The signs and symptoms of gingivitis can be very mild. The disease course varies among individuals. Some people may not be aware they have the condition, while others may have bleeding, swelling, tenderness, and mouth sores. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), severe pain, and difficulty swallowing or breathing. Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for gingivitis but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.