Gingivitis or Periodontitis? What You Should Know

Is it gingivitis or periodontitis

The terms gingivitis and periodontitis are often used interchangeably. And though these conditions are related and are both forms of gum disease, they are not the same. Knowing the different stages of gum disease and the differences between gingivitis vs. periodontitis can help you understand what to be aware of and can help you better control your oral health.

Gingivitis vs. periodontitis—what should you know about the stages of gum disease?

If your dentist has told you that you or your child have gum disease, you likely have a lot of questions. Of course, asking your dentist your questions is the best place to start, but we understand it can be a lot to absorb all at once. We’ve done our best to break it down for you, starting with what you should know about the various stages, what causes it, how it is treated, and what you can do to catch it early on.

The Stages of Gum Disease 

Simply stated, there are two stages of gum disease.

  1. Gingivitis
  2. Periodontitis

Gum disease in its earliest stage, called gingivitis, is curable. However, when left untreated, it can get far more severe, turning into periodontitis – which cannot be cured. Periodontitis can be broken down into its own four stages. But these stages are very different, with the most significant difference being in their level of severity and the ability for it to be treated and reversed.

  1. Stage 1 – Initial periodontitis
  2. Stage 2 – Moderate periodontitis
  3. Stage 3 – Severe periodontitis with potential for loss of teeth
  4. Stage 4 – Severe periodontitis with potential for loss of all of your teeth 

During the early stages of periodontitis, you might experience inflammation of the gums but your deeper tissues may not yet be affected. As the condition worsens from the initial stages to the more moderate stage, secretions from the oral bacteria in your mouth can affect both your teeth and the supporting bone that holds your teeth in place. As the disease progresses to advanced periodontitis, you are more and more at risk for tooth loss and abscesses.

What causes gum disease?

Regardless of whether or not you have gingivitis or the more advanced periodontitis, it all starts somewhere. Patients often ask us about the cause of gum disease. The most common culprits of gum disease are:

1. Plaque Build-up

Though it is imperative for your oral health that you practice good oral hygiene at home –including brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash – you simply can’t remove all of that plaque on your own. Be sure to visit the dentist every six months for an oral evaluation and cleaning to help keep that dental plaque from building up and getting out of control.

2. Tobacco Use

Smoking and the use of other tobacco products can interfere with the normal function of our gum tissue cells. This makes us more susceptible to various illnesses and infections, such as gum disease. Quitting the use of any and all tobacco products is one of the best things you can do to lessen your risk of developing gum disease.

3. Prescription Medications

All medications come with various risks and side effects; unfortunately, some medications can cause a greater risk for the development of gum disease. The biggest challenge with certain medications is the resulting dry mouth, as the salivary glands cannot produce adequate amounts of saliva to keep the mouth moist and teeth clean. 

4. Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes, particularly in women, can make them more susceptible to gum disease at various stages of their life. During pregnancy, in particular, the gums might become inflamed, puffy, red, or irritated. They may also bleed a bit when brushing or flossing. Patients who experience these symptoms should know that they typically go away after pregnancy. That said, your dentist will pay close attention to ensure the condition doesn’t worsen.  

5. Misaligned or Crooked Teeth

Misaligned or crooked teeth can have negative consequences beyond affecting your smile. When your teeth aren’t straight, it can make brushing and flossing all that much more challenging. This means you might not be able to adequately remove dental plaque during your oral care routine at home. Here is one more reason why it is so important to maintain those six-month visits to the dentists for a dental cleaning and to discuss orthodontic options with your dentist to improve your smile.

6. Family History

Unfortunately, genetics and family history can play into this also. So if you are aware that other family members have suffered from gum disease, whether it be gingivitis or periodontitis, be sure to let your dentist know.

7. Nutritional Deficiencies

We’ve all heard the message repeatedly throughout our lifetime that we need to eat well. Eat more protein. Cut out unnecessary fats and starches. Get more vitamins and minerals. Drink more water. And all of this is true. In fact, our daily diet can be a contributing factor to the development of gingivitis. A diet high in sugar and carbohydrates and low in water and vitamin C creates the perfect conditions for the development of gum disease. So, drink more water and be sure to eat tooth-friendly foods whenever possible.

Treating Gum Disease

Treating gum disease involves various options and your dentist will work with you to determine the best course of action depending on what stage of disease you have. Of course, prevention is the best course of action, with regular professional dental cleanings being able to remove plaque and tartar before they become an issue. However, your Lawton family dentist can assist with other interventions if gum disease has started to take hold.

In most cases, a deep cleaning treatment or laser cleaning will be suggested. However, while scaling, root planing and laser cleaning can remove bacteria and prevent a recurrence of gum disease, they can’t reverse the harm already done by the disease. If you have damaged or missing teeth due to an advanced stage of periodontitis, you may need restorative dentistry to maintain your long-term oral health. Crowns, dental implants, and other options can restore the appearance and function of your smile.

Wondering what to do about gingivitis or periodontitis? Schedule a dental cleaning with your Lawton family dentist today!

Don’t keep worrying about what to do about gum disease. If you have swollen or puffy gums, they are bleeding easily, you have bad breath, you notice pus in your mouth, or you see pink on your toothbrush, you may have or be at risk for gum disease. 
At this point, the best course of action is to request an appointment with your Lawton family dentist for an oral evaluation and dental cleaning. Let the team at Sheppard Family Dental Care help.