Gingivitis vs. Periodontitis — What’s the Difference?
You’ve probably heard the terms “gingivitis” and “periodontitis” before. They both refer to dangerous oral health conditions, but what exactly are they? Simply put, they are different stages of the same problem: gum disease. Let’s talk about the differences between them, how you can recognize their symptoms, and how a periodontist might address them.
Gingivitis: The First Stage of Gum Disease
Any form of gum disease is an infection of the gum tissue. It occurs when harmful bacteria sneak beneath the gumline and cause inflammation. Missteps in oral hygiene are a common cause of gum disease, but genetics and other factors can also play a role in its development.
Gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease. Some of the symptoms it may cause include red, swollen gums, bad breath, and gums that bleed easily when you brush. Gingivitis may be quite subtle and usually does not cause significant pain. Many people do not even realize that they have it. Often, it is reversible via thorough oral hygiene and periodic checkups with a qualified periodontist. A professional deep cleaning of the mouth and/or antibiotic therapy might also be called for.
Periodontitis: Advanced Gum Disease
If gingivitis remains untreated for too long, it may worsen and become periodontitis. Periodontitis has more severe symptoms than gingivitis. You might find that your teeth feel loose, it is difficult to eat, your teeth are sensitive, and your gums are in significant pain. Gum recession is also a characteristic of periodontitis. When this condition becomes severe, it often leads to tooth loss. In fact, it is estimated that 70 percent of missing teeth among adults are a result of gum disease.
Depending on how bad a case of periodontitis is, it might be treatable via a deep cleaning of the mouth. However, it is also possible that periodontal (gum) surgery will be necessary. When periodontitis causes tooth loss or severe gum recession, dental implants and/or a gum graft might be necessary in order to replace the lost tissues.
Caring for Your Gums
It is estimated that roughly half of adults in the U.S. have some form of gum disease. Therefore, it is vital that you keep an eye on your gum health. If you notice symptoms of gingivitis or periodontitis, a visit to a periodontist (a dentist who specializes in promoting gum health) may be in order. They will carefully diagnose your condition and formulate a custom treatment plan to get your oral health back on track. They can also coach you on how best to care for your gums at home.
Gingivitis and periodontitis are both dangerous conditions. Knowing what they are and how to recognize them can empower you to take the best possible care of your smile.