What’s the Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis?

What's the Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis?
Author: Espire Dental Posted: November 16th, 2023 Category:

Gum disease is a progressive condition. It starts with gingivitis, but gum disease turns into periodontitis if left untreated.

Gum disease ranks as one of the most common dental problems in the U.S., with nearly 50 percent of adults age 30 or over exhibiting some signs of the condition. But did you know gum disease advances through stages? Because it’s a progressive condition, gum disease can be cured when caught early.

Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease. With proper treatment, gingivitis can be reversed before it progresses into periodontitis, the more severe form of gum disease. Knowing the symptoms of gingivitis and periodontitis can prompt you to get the treatment you need to reverse and manage gum disease.

What is gum disease?

First, let’s talk about how gum disease starts. Your mouth is filled with bacteria. When bacteria mix with the sugars in your food, it forms a sticky substance known as plaque, attracting even more bacteria. Daily oral care removes most bacteria and plaque on the teeth and gums. But when left to grow, plaque releases toxins that irritate and inflame the gums. The plaque also converts to a hardened tartar that inflames the gum tissue. Only a dental hygienist can properly and safely remove tartar. 

Poor dental hygiene and a diet heavy in sugar are the top causes of gum disease. But smoking or medications that sap the mouth of saliva can also lead to gum disease. Gum disease may also run in families. Certain chronic conditions, such as diabetes, can also raise the risk of gum disease.

What is gingivitis?

As mentioned previously, gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease. Symptoms are generally mild and range from swollen, tender gums to bleeding when brushing or flossing. At this point, the disease has not impacted the gums and bone holding the teeth in place.

Although gingivitis symptoms may be subtle, they shouldn’t be ignored. If you notice unusual bleeding or tenderness, see your dentist immediately. Gingivitis can be cured with a non-surgical scaling and root planing procedure, a two-pronged approach to cleaning bacteria and plaque from the tooth and its root. Your dentist may also recommend improving your oral care routine with regular brushing and flossing to keep the gums healthy. 

What is periodontitis?

Untreated gingivitis can result in periodontitis, the most advanced and severe form of gum disease. Periodontitis symptoms also include swollen and bleeding gums. But as the disease erodes the gums and bone tissue, periodontitis can lead to gum recession and loose teeth. In fact, a tooth may become so loose that it may fall out. 

Although periodontitis cannot be completely reversed, it can be managed with proper care so the bacterial infection doesn’t spread to other parts of the body, such as your heart. As with gingivitis, your dentist may perform a scaling and root planing procedure. But your dentist may also consider several surgical options, such as a gum tissue or bone graft to build up the bone and gums around the tooth to secure it. They may also prescribe antibiotics. Other methods can be used to regenerate bone tissue.

How to prevent gum disease

Gum disease at any stage is a treatable condition. Yet it’s better to maintain your gum health and avoid gum disease altogether. These simple oral care tips will help you do that.

Brush and floss daily. Daily brushing and flossing rid your teeth and gums of disease-causing bacteria and plaque. You should brush at least twice a day and floss once.

Avoid sweets. Sugar accelerates the growth of bacteria and plaque. If you drink sugary beverages and consume sweets, brush soon afterward to reduce the amount of bacteria and plaque on your teeth.

Don’t smoke. Tobacco is not only harmful to your heart and lungs but also to your gums and teeth. Quit now for the sake of your teeth.

See your dentist regularly. Supplement your at-home dental care with twice-yearly visits to your dentist. During those appointments, the hygienist removes tartar from your teeth and gums while your dentist will check for any signs of decay or gum disease. The earlier gum disease therapy starts, the better your chances of a cure.

Your gum health is our number one priority

Schedule an appointment at Espire’s Cheyenne, WY, location today! Our highly trained dentists, Dr. Brenon Farmer and Dr. Dale Lazar, can check your teeth and gums for any signs of gum disease and start therapy as soon as possible. Don’t live near our Cheyenne, WY, office? Find one of our other locations near you.

Cheyenne, WY
7112 Commons Circle
Cheyenne, WY 82009