Gingivitis vs. Periodontitis: What’s The Difference?

BY Dr. McDowell  |  November 22nd, 2022
Dr. McDowell
Dr. McDowell has always been focused on using the latest technology to improve the patient experience. From radiation-free imaging to laser dentistry, he has always been ahead of the curve and is dedicated to improving the practice of dentistry one ..

Growing up, we all were told to brush our teeth, floss, and avoid too much sugar. You may be aware that oral health is directly related to your overall health, but if nothing has gone wrong in the past, you may be tempted to let your dental hygiene slide.

That is, until issues start to arise with your teeth and gums, and you start to panic. You may have heard big words like “gingivitis” and “periodontal disease,” and if you’re starting to experience problems with your teeth, you may be wondering about the outlook.

While gingivitis and periodontitis are closely related, they are different diseases. We’ll break down the differences between gingivitis vs. periodontitis and give you tips for treatment.

Guide to Gingivitis

Gingivitis is actually a fairly common disease that many people experience at some point. Let’s take a closer look at:

What Is Gingivitis?

In short, gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. It’s caused by a buildup of plaque on the teeth. (Plaque is a film of bacteria that forms on the surfaces of teeth and gums.)

gingivitis vs periodontitis gingivitis

If the plaque isn’t professionally removed in a dental cleaning, it can harden and turn into tartar, which irritates the gums and often causes bleeding. The good news is that gingivitis is treatable and preventable. However, if left untreated, it can turn into periodontal disease, which we’ll cover later.

Gingivitis Symptoms

Since gingivitis is common, it can be easy to spot by a dental professional. However, if you haven’t scheduled a dental cleaning in a few years, be sure to look out for these symptoms so that the situation doesn’t worsen:

Pain and other symptoms are rare with gingivitis.

How to Treat Gingivitis

Treating gingivitis consists of minimizing gum inflammation. The best treatment plans include:

Guide to Periodontitis

Periodontitis (or periodontal disease) is commonly known as gum disease. While gingivitis is also technically a form of mild gum disease, periodontitis is a more severe condition.

What Is Periodontitis?

Periodontal disease is what happens when gingivitis goes untreated and worsens. Severe gum disease occurs when the periodontium (the gum tissue and bone that keeps your teeth in place) gets inflamed.

If the condition continues to get worse, it can cause your teeth to loosen and even eventually fall out. As the gums pull away from your teeth, they form spaces called gum pockets, which can quickly get infected.

Symptoms of Periodontitis

The symptoms of periodontal disease are more significant than gingivitis, so it’s essential to work with a dentist as soon as you notice these issues:

gingivitis vs periodontitis periodontitis

Treating Periodontitis

Since periodontal disease is more advanced than gingivitis, it requires more treatment. Treatment still aims to reduce inflammation and includes:

Risk Factors for Both Diseases

While failing to properly brush and floss your teeth is the most likely cause of gingivitis and periodontitis, other risk factors can increase your risk for these diseases, including:

It’s important to note that if you fall under any of these risk factors, oral hygiene is of the utmost importance. If you combine one or more of the risk factors on this list with a lack of proper dental care, you can quickly fall victim to gum disease.

Be sure to brush your teeth once in the morning and once at night, and floss your teeth at least once a day. (If you only floss once a day, doing so before going to bed is the best time.) Also, schedule regular professional dental cleanings every six months.

How Does Gingivitis Progress to Periodontitis?

Periodontal disease can only exist if gingivitis does first. If you can quickly catch and treat gingivitis, you significantly lower your chances of developing periodontitis.

The progression from gingivitis to periodontal disease works like this:

Developing periodontal disease may sound gruesome. We don’t mean to scare you, but it’s vital to know the consequences of periodontal disease so that you can take the steps to prevent it.

How Gum Disease Affects Overall Health

Gum disease affects 47.2% of adults over 30 in the U.S. Since it’s so prevalent, you may be tempted to think it’s not that bad. But you don’t want to let gum disease get worse because it can impact your overall health, too, not just that of your teeth.

Many research studies have linked gum disease to roughly 120 other health conditions, including:

Gum disease and diabetes have the strongest connection. The relationship goes both ways— people with diabetes may be more susceptible to bacterial infection, and periodontitis can also affect blood glucose levels.

One possible explanation for the way gum disease can lead to heart disease is that bacteria in infected gum tissue could enter the bloodstream. There, it could travel to other parts of your circulatory system, leading to arterial plaque and inflammation.

gingivitis vs periodontitis pulling floss

How to Keep Your Gums Healthy at Home

As we’ve mentioned, gum disease is almost entirely preventable! You need to keep up with your gum health in order to keep bacteria and inflammation away. The best ways you can help prevent gum disease at home include:

In addition to these at-home steps, be sure to schedule regular professional cleanings. You should have your teeth and gums cleaned by a dentist every 6 months to keep plaque build-up at bay.

We’ll Help You Stay Happy and Healthy

If it’s been a while since you last saw the dentist, or even if you’re just looking for a new office, the friendly professionals at Wayzata Dental can’t wait to serve you. Our team is well-trained and thorough, and we do everything to set our patients up for long-term success.

We accept many insurance plans and know how to treat gum disease when we see it. Don’t wait any longer to take your health into your own hands— set up an appointment with Wayzata Dental today!

Dr. McDowell
Dr. McDowell has always been focused on using the latest technology to improve the patient experience. From radiation-free imaging to laser dentistry, he has always been ahead of the curve and is dedicated to improving the practice of dentistry one ..