When people talk about gum disease, they sometimes use terms such as gingivitis and periodontitis interchangeably. While it can be easy to confuse the two or to assume that they are the same, in reality, they are very different. Gingivitis is a much milder form of gum disease compared to periodontitis. It can be treated, but if left untreated, there’s the possibility that it will progress to more advanced forms of gum disease, such as periodontitis.
If you’ve ever wondered how gingivitis and periodontitis are different, here’s what you need to know.
What Causes Gingivitis?
Usually, not taking care of your teeth and gums properly is what leads to gingivitis. Every day, a sticky film called plaque develops on the surface of the teeth. Brushing your teeth and flossing between them helps to remove plaque.
If plaque isn’t adequately removed, it eventually hardens and turns into tartar. Often, the tartar can develop just beneath the gumline. While you can brush away plaque, tartar is harder to get rid of and usually requires a deep cleaning from a dentist.
Left on the teeth and below the gumline, tartar and plaque can irritate your gums. Ongoing irritation can cause the gums to become inflamed and swollen.
The symptoms of gingivitis might not cause you physical pain or discomfort, but you can usually see them. Your gums might look dark red and they are likely to bleed easily. Swelling of the gums is also common. In some cases, people with gingivitis also have bad breath or some recession in the gums.
The good news about gingivitis is that if it’s caught in time and hasn’t yet progressed to periodontitis, it’s fully reversible with treatment. Often, the most effective treatment for gingivitis is to have a dentist deep clean the teeth and gums. The deep cleaning might involve scaling to remove any tartar from the teeth and from beneath gums. More advanced cases of gingivitis might require root planing, which removes bacteria and smooths down the surfaces of the teeth’s roots.
After the deep cleaning, it’s important to keep up or to start a good oral care routine at home. That usually means brushing your teeth after meals and flossing daily. In some cases, your periodontist might recommend using an electric toothbrush instead of a manual one.
What Causes Periodontitis?
If gingivitis isn’t treated, there is a chance that it will progress into periodontitis, a gum infection that can cause damage to the bone and soft tissues around the teeth. When the inflammation caused by gingivitis isn’t resolved, pockets tend to form between the teeth and gums. Those pockets can fill up with more plaque and bacteria. Over time, they become deeper and deeper, often destroying bone and gum tissue in the most advanced stages.
In the beginning, the symptoms of periodontitis are similar to the symptoms of gingivitis. The gums are likely to be red, swollen and bleed easily. As the disease progresses, though, the symptoms become more severe. The gums start to recede, exposing more of the tooth and its roots. Spaces can form between the teeth and the teeth can become loose. In very severe cases, it’s possible for a person to lose their teeth as a result of periodontitis.
Various treatment options are available to help correct or minimize the damage caused by periodontitis. In the earliest stages of the disease, a deep cleaning, with scaling and root planing, might be a sufficient treatment.
More advanced cases of periodontitis might require a treatment such as LANAP, which uses a laser to clean the pockets between the gums and teeth, then reattaches the tissue and bone to the roots of the teeth. In cases where the periodontitis caused gum recession, a patient might benefit from a treatment with AlloDerm or from a procedure such as the pinhole surgical technique.
Whether you are concerned about gingivitis or periodontitis, getting the right diagnosis and treatment is critical. Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area who offers patients a number of different traditional and cutting-edge treatments for gum disease. He can recommend a treatment plan for your specific concerns. To schedule an appointment in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 today.