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Gingivitis vs Periodontitis: How to Tell the Difference

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When you go to the dentist for a checkup, you might be told you have “gummy” swelling of your gums. At times, you suffer from inflammation around the roots of your teeth. The difference between gingivitis vs periodontitis lies in the severity of the symptoms, but they both share the common effect of harming your teeth. If left untreated, a diagnosis of either gingivitis or periodontitis can result in tooth loss. If you’re interested in figuring out the difference between gingivitis and periodontitis, then read on. Let’s get you started!

Overview of Gingivitis vs Periodontitis

Gingivitis and periodontitis are two distinct diseases that affect the gum tissue and supporting structures of the teeth. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums that is usually caused by a build-up of bacteria in the form of plaque. It can be reversible with the right oral hygiene. On the other hand, periodontitis is a serious infection that affects the:

  • gums
  • bone
  • ligaments

All of these support the teeth. Its signs and symptoms are often similar to those of gingivitis. To tell the difference, a dentist should be consulted, as they can examine the gums for any signs of infection or tissue loss. 

The Main Causes

Gingivitis is caused by plaque build up around the gum line which can lead to swelling, redness, irritation, and bleeding of the gums. Periodontitis occurs when gingivitis is left untreated. This can lead to the supporting gum structure and bone being destroyed.  The contributing factors to gingivitis include poor oral hygiene, smoking, stress, and hormonal changes. On the one hand, periodontitis can result from:

  • untreated gingivitis
  • imbalanced diet
  • diabetes
  • other serious health conditions

If left untreated, both can worsen and it’s best to seek help from a dental professional if problems persist.

Difference in Reversibility

Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease and is easily reversible with proper brushing and flossing. Periodontitis, on the other hand, is an advanced form of gum disease. It requires professional dental care or surgery to reverse. Periodontitis can cause bones to be destroyed which is why the damage can be irreversible. To identify which form of gum disease you have, it is important to visit your dentist and have regular examinations. By recognizing the signs early, periodontitis can be prevented from progressing to more severe stages. Regular brushing and flossing are important to prevent both gingivitis and periodontitis and to avoid irreversibility.

Severity of Health Complications

Gingivitis is the less severe form of gum disease. As discussed earlier, the condition can be reversed with the right oral hygiene and the removal of plaque from the teeth. Periodontitis, however, is a much more serious form of gum disease.


In periodontitis, the gums start to pull away from the teeth, and infection and even loss of teeth can occur. This condition is often associated with more serious health complications, such as heart health. This could be due to the infection spreading to other parts of the body.

Chronic Inflammation

Periodontitis is characterized by chronic inflammation of the gums and the surrounding tissues. This inflammation releases inflammatory molecules, or cytokines, into the bloodstream. These cytokines can contribute to inflammation throughout the body, including the blood vessels.

Blood Clots

The presence of chronic inflammation can make blood cells more likely to stick together. Thus, potentially leading to the formation of blood clots. These clots can block blood vessels and increase the risk of heart attacks or strokes. That is why it’s best to understand the connection between dental health and heart health as well. Knowing the difference between gingivitis and periodontitis can help to identify the severity of other health complications associated. It also helps ensure that proper treatment is implemented to bring gum health back to optimal levels.

Treatment Options

Treatment options for both gingivitis and periodontitis may vary. It is important to speak with your dental professional to determine the best course of action for your situation.

Gingivitis Treatment Options

Let’s look into various approaches to treating gingivitis. By gaining insight into these treatment options, individuals can take proactive steps to combat gingivitis and prevent its progression to more serious periodontal conditions.

Improved Oral Hygiene

The cornerstone of gingivitis treatment is maintaining proper oral hygiene. This includes regular brushing (at least twice a day) using a fluoride toothpaste. It also includes flossing daily to remove plaque between teeth and using an antimicrobial mouthwash to reduce bacteria.

Professional Dental Cleaning

A dental professional will perform a thorough cleaning to remove plaque and tartar buildup. This process is called scaling and root planing. It helps to eliminate irritants from the gum line and smooth the tooth’s root surfaces.

Education and Counseling

Patients are educated about proper oral hygiene techniques and the importance of maintaining good oral health practices at home. Dental professionals guide effective brushing and flossing techniques.

Periodontitis Treatment Pathways

Let’s look into a spectrum of treatment options tailored to combat periodontitis. Individuals should grasp the importance of early intervention and make informed choices.

Scaling and Root Planing

This deep cleaning procedure is crucial for treating periodontitis. It involves removing plaque and tartar from the tooth’s root surfaces and smoothing them to prevent bacteria from adhering. This can be done using manual instruments or ultrasonic devices.


Antibiotics may be prescribed to control bacterial infection in the gums. They can be administered orally, topically (as mouth rinses), or placed directly into gum pockets after scaling and root planing.

Surgical Procedures

In advanced cases of periodontitis, surgical interventions may be necessary. The gums are lifted, and infected tissue is removed. The tissue is then repositioned to reduce pocket depth. In cases where bone has been lost, grafts may be used to stimulate bone growth and regenerate supportive structures.

Laser Therapy

Laser treatment can be used to remove infected tissue and promote gum reattachment. It’s a less invasive option compared to traditional surgical methods.

Understand the Difference Between Gingivitis vs Periodontitis

The differences between gingivitis vs periodontitis can be tricky to navigate. To ensure healthy gums and to prevent more severe issues, it is important to contact a certified dental professional. This is especially true if experiencing any gum-related symptoms. Taking charge of your oral health can make a world of difference in your overall health and well-being. Schedule a dentist appointment today! For more articles, visit our blog. We’ve got more for you!

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