Gingivitis vs. Periodontitis
Gum disease affects many people in some form, but they often don’t know it because it’s usually fairly painless. Gingivitis and gum disease are two terms that you should understand, including their symptoms, how they impact oral health, and how to prevent them.
What does your dental team mean by “gingivitis”?
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums. When your gums are healthy, they look pink and firm, and they aren’t swollen or puffy around the tooth. The germs that cause dental disease are always present in the mouth. When too much food and bacteria build up around the teeth and gums, plaque forms. Eventually, plaque can harden into tartar that irritates the gums. Toxins in plaque cause the gums to become swollen and red, to bleed easily, and to be more tender. Gingivitis is an early, mild form of gum disease but can be reversed with good home care combined with dental hygiene therapy.
What is gum disease?
When gingivitis is not reversed with effective brushing, flossing, and dental hygiene therapy, it can progress to cause inflammatory damage of the gums and bone called periodontitis. If you have periodontitis, your gums recede from your teeth and form pockets that harbor a variety of germs. Your immune system responds to the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line, but this can actually cause damage. Bacterial toxins and your body’s natural response to fight the infection start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place.
Without treatment, the bones, gums, and fibers that support the teeth can be destroyed. Your teeth will eventually become loose and may need to be removed.
How does gum disease develop?
There are many risk factors associated with gum disease. They include:
- Smoking, one of the biggest risk factors associated with gum disease.
- Hormonal changes in girls/women, which can make gums more reactive to toxins that cause gingivitis
- Diabetes, which impairs our defenses against infections, including gum disease
- Prescription and over-the-counter medications which may reduce the protective effect of saliva flow in the mouth
- Diseases, such as cancer or AIDS, and their treatments can sometimes have harmful effects on gum health
- Genetics, which makes some people more prone to severe gum disease by inherited traits
What can I do to prevent gum disease?
There are several things you can do to prevent both gingivitis and gum disease:
- Brush your teeth twice a day (with fluoride toothpaste)
- Floss your teeth every day
- Visit the dentist routinely for a checkup and dental hygiene therapy
- Don’t smoke and if you do smoke, quit!
- Make sure your diabetes is well-controlled
- Know the side effects of the medications you are taking
What are the symptoms of gum disease?
Symptoms include bad breath that won’t go away even after chewing gum or eating mints; red or swollen gums; tender or bleeding gums; painful chewing; loose teeth; sensitive teeth; or receding gums or teeth that appear longer than others.
What is the treatment for gingivitis and gum disease?
We treat gingivitis by cleaning your teeth to remove plaque and tartar. Scaling (cleaning) the tooth and root surface reduces the sources of infection in the gums. We also may prescribe special mouthwashes or medicines. For gum disease, we often recommend combined treatments like antibiotics, antimicrobial mouthwashes, deep scaling and root planing (cleaning and smoothing) of the root surface, or removing the infected gum tissue or teeth. Dr Cardon will talk to you about all of the treatment options available if you have gingivitis or gum disease. He may consider referring you to a gum specialist (periodontist) if advisable. You should always feel free to ask questions if you are concerned about your oral health.
Learn more at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/g/gum-disease