When you visit your general dentist for a biannual dental checkup and cleaning, your dentist and dental hygienist will closely examine the health of your gums in addition to your teeth. And it’s for good reason: nearly half of adult Americans suffer from some level of gum disease. This is largely due to a lack of prevention. In fact, the main problem with gum disease is that most people are uneducated about what it is, what causes it, and how to avoid it. One of the most common confusions results from the difference between the levels of gum disease. You’ve probably heard your dentist mention terms like periodontitis and gingivitis, but what’s the difference? When it comes to gingivitis vs. periodontitis, understanding the distinctions between the two can better help you prevent gum disease and enjoy a healthy, beautiful smile for years to come.

What Causes Gingivitis

Plaque build up on your teeth can cause gum inflammation, or gingivitis. Since gingivitis is painless in the early stages, you may not even be aware that you have it. Your dentist and dental hygienist will check your gums for inflammation at your regular checkups, but here are some signs of gingivitis:

  • Swollen gums
  • Bright red gums
  • Gums that bleed easily, especially when flossed or brushed

It’s important to make an appointment with your general dentist soon as you notice any of these symptoms.

Smoking, poor oral hygiene, hormonal changes, poor diet, and even chronic diseases can increase your risk of developing gingivitis. But, if caught early enough, there are treatment options for gingivitis that can reverse the damage.

What Causes Periodontitis

If left untreated for too long, gingivitis will eventually develop into periodontitis. As your gums become more and more inflamed, they will begin to pull up and away from the teeth. This creates pockets where bacteria will start to build. Plaque then spreads and grows below the gumline, which can lead to tooth and bone loss. This advanced stage of gum disease can lead to poor tooth alignment, gum recession, and clear pockets between the teeth and gums.

Gingivitis vs Periodontitis

Gingivitis and periodontitis are both a form of gum disease, which is also known as periodontal disease. Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums and is less severe than periodontitis. If caught early enough, gingivitis may be treated easily simply by implementing a more strict brushing and flossing routine. However, letting gingivitis go untreated could invite the development of periodontitis, which can eventually lead to tooth and even bone loss.

Gum disease treatments range from non-invasive to invasive. Your dentist may start by recommending more frequent dental cleanings at his or her office. As the disease advances, so do the treatment options. Your dentist might recommend a “deep cleaning” process called scaling and root planing. Unfortunately, surgery and bone grafts might be necessary to treat advanced cases of periodontal disease.

If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of gingivitis or periodontitis, please contact your general dentist for a checkup and a cleaning. Catching gum disease early is the best way to reverse the damage done to your teeth and gums. Remember that prevention is every bit as important as treatment. Keeping up with good dental hygiene habits –– like brushing and flossing twice per day –– and seeing your general dentist for regular cleanings and checkups is key.

You deserve a healthy, beautiful smile that lasts a lifetime. Here at Endodontic Specialists of Colorado, we make it our mission to restore our patients’ smiles, relieve their pain, and save their natural teeth. With locations in Pueblo and Colorado Springs, convenient care is just a phone call away. Contact us today to schedule your evaluation!