What Is the Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis?

The terms, gingivitis and periodontal disease, are often used interchangeably. However, it is important to realize that they are significantly different. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of periodontal disease (also known as gum disease). As the mildest form, it can often be treated with targeted periodontal cleaning and an improved preventive dental routine. By contrast, periodontitis is a much more severe form of gum disease, and if allowed to progress, treating the condition may involve specialized periodontal treatment and maintenance.

How Gingivitis Forms

Gingivitis is a minor infection in your gums that develops when oral bacteria work their way underneath your periodontal tissues, causing redness and inflammation. This often results from inadequate hygiene practices or infrequent visits to your dentist, which allow oral bacteria to accumulate excessively on your teeth and along your gum line. As your gums become infected, you may notice redness, swelling, and occasional bleeding. Yet, because gingivitis doesn’t usually lead to discomfort, such symptoms are often regarded as harmless, and therefore ignored.

When Gum Disease Progresses

As gingivitis progresses, it matures from a minor infection into fully developed gum disease. The inflammation in your gums is exacerbated as the disease erodes the tissues, and in cases of periodontitis, it can also affect the jawbone structure underneath your gums. At this point, the severe condition of your gums and jawbone can lead to loose, painful teeth, and hesitating to seek treatment could lead to tooth loss. In fact, periodontitis is the leading cause of tooth loss for adults in the United States, and the inflammation it causes is a notable risk factor in other chronic systemic health issues.

Protect Your Smile from Gingivitis and Periodontitis

By preventing or managing gingivitis early, you can protect your smile from the extensive damage that periodontitis can cause. To learn more, schedule a consultation with Dr. Kania by calling her periodontal office in Encinitas/San Diego, CA, at (760) 642-0711.