Gingivitis vs Periodontitis – What’s the Difference?

Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial for overall health, and understanding the differences between gingivitis and periodontitis is essential for effective dental care. While both conditions affect the gums and can lead to serious dental issues, they are distinct in their symptoms, severity, and treatment methods. In this article, we’ll explore what gingivitis and periodontitis are, how they differ, their warning signs, and the best ways to treat and prevent them.

What is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is the earliest stage of gum disease and is characterised by inflammation of the gums. It occurs when plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, accumulates on the teeth and gums. If not removed through regular brushing and flossing, plaque can irritate the gums, causing them to become red, swollen, and prone to bleeding. Gingivitis is often painless, making it easy to overlook. However, it is reversible with proper oral hygiene and professional dental care.

What is Periodontitis?

Periodontitis is a more advanced form of gum disease that develops if gingivitis is left untreated. In periodontitis, the inflammation extends deeper into the gum tissue, affecting the bone and connective tissues that support the teeth. This can lead to the formation of pockets between the gums and teeth, which can become infected. Over time, the bones, gums, and tissue supporting the teeth can be destroyed, potentially leading to tooth loss. Unlike gingivitis, periodontitis requires more intensive treatment to manage and is not entirely reversible.

What’s the difference between them?

The primary difference between gingivitis and periodontitis is their severity and impact on oral health. Gingivitis is an early stage of gum disease confined to the gums, and it is generally reversible with good oral hygiene and professional care. Periodontitis, on the other hand, is a more severe condition that affects not only the gums but also the bones and tissues supporting the teeth. It is a chronic condition that can cause permanent damage if not properly managed.

What are the warning signs and symptoms?

Recognising the warning signs and symptoms of gingivitis, particularly before it becomes periodontitis, is crucial for early intervention and treatment. Common symptoms include:

  • Swollen, red, or bleeding gums
  • Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth
  • Receding gums, which make the teeth look longer
  • Formation of deep pockets between the gums and teeth
  • Loose or shifting teeth
  • Painful chewing

If you experience any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible for a thorough examination.

How do you treat it?

Luckily, regular and consistent oral hygiene is enough to reverse the effects of gingivitis in most cases. Incorporate twice-daily brushing and flossing and regular professional cleans and checkups at your dentist.

The treatment of periodontitis, however, is more complicated and involves several approaches, depending on the severity of the condition:

  1. Scaling and Root Planing: This deep-cleaning procedure removes plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line and smooths the tooth root to promote healing.
  2. Medications: Antibiotics or antimicrobial mouth rinses may be prescribed to help control bacterial infection.
  3. Surgical Treatments: In advanced cases, procedures such as flap surgery, soft tissue grafts, or bone grafts may be necessary to repair and regenerate damaged tissues and bone.

Regular follow-up visits with your dentist are crucial to monitor the condition and ensure effective treatment.

How do you prevent it?

No surprises here! Preventing gingivitis and periodontitis involves adopting a consistent and thorough oral hygiene routine:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day: Use fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Floss daily: Remove plaque and food particles between teeth that brushing alone can’t reach.
  • Regular dental check-ups: Visit your dentist twice yearly for professional cleanings and oral exams.
  • Healthy lifestyle choices: Avoid smoking, eat a balanced diet, and manage health conditions like diabetes, which can increase the risk of gum disease.

You can protect your gums and overall dental health by understanding the differences between gingivitis and periodontitis and taking proactive steps to maintain good oral hygiene. If you have any concerns or symptoms of gum disease, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice from one of our friendly team at North Sydney Dental Practice.

Contact us to book an appointment, or visit our blog for more information on oral health and cosmetic dentistry.

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