What’s the Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis?
Gingivitis (gum inflammation) usually precedes periodontitis (gum disease). However, it is important to know that not all gingivitis progresses to periodontitis.
In the early stage of gingivitis, bacteria in plaque build up, causing the gums to become inflamed and to easily bleed during tooth brushing. Although the gums may be irritated, the teeth are still firmly planted in their sockets. No irreversible bone or other tissue damage has occurred at this stage.
When gingivitis is left untreated, it can advance to periodontitis. In a person with periodontitis, the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth and form pockets. These small spaces between teeth and gums collect debris and can become infected. The body’s immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Plaque is the primary cause of gum disease. However, other factors can contribute to periodontal disease. These include:
- Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during pregnancy, puberty, menopause, and monthly menstruation, make gums more sensitive, which makes it easier for gingivitis to develop.
- Illnesses may affect the condition of your gums. This includes diseases such as cancer or HIV that interfere with the immune system. Because diabetes affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar, patients with this disease are at higher risk of developing infections, including periodontal disease and cavities.
- Medications can affect oral health, because some lessen the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on teeth and gums. Some drugs, such as the anticonvulsant medication Dilantin and the anti-angina drug Procardia and Adalat, can cause abnormal growth of gum tissue.
- Bad habits such as smoking make it harder for gum tissue to repair itself.
- Poor oral hygiene habits such as not brushing and flossing on a daily basis, make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
- Family history of dental disease can be a contributing factor for the development of gingivitis.
Gum Disease Symptoms
- Gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer than before
- Sores in your mouth
- Persistent bad breath
- Bleeding while brushing, flossing, or eating hard food
- Red, swollen or tender gums or other pain in your mouth
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
- Loose or separating teeth
- Pus between your gums and teeth
Types of Gum Disease
- Gingivitis is the mildest form of periodontal disease. It causes the gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort at this stage. Gingivitis is often caused by inadequate oral hygiene.
Gingivitis is reversible with professional treatment and good oral home care.
- Periodontits, Untreated gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. With time, plaque can spread and grow below the gum line. Toxins produced by the bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. The toxins stimulate a chronic inflammatory response in which the body in essence turns on itself, and the tissues and bone that support the teeth are broken down and destroyed.
- Gums separate from the teeth, forming pockets (spaces between the teeth and gums) that become infected. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms. Eventually, teeth can become loose and may have to be removed.
Gum Disease Risk Factors
The main cause of periodontal (gum) disease is plaque, but other factors affect the health of your gums.
Risk Factors are:
- Tobacco Use/Smoking
- Poor Nutrition and Obesity
- Other Systemic Diseases
- Clenching or Grinding your teeth.
Even if you don’t notice any symptoms, you may still have some degree of gum disease. In some people, gum disease may affect only certain teeth, such as the molars. Only our dentists or a hygienist can recognize and determine the progression of gum disease.
Our Hygienist Danielle is available on Thursdays, and regular maintenance is required every 3 months.