Your gums are necessary to hold your teeth in place and keep your mouth healthy, but this delicate tissue is also susceptible to inflammation and bacterial growth. To help you understand the difference between gingivitis and periodontitis, two types of gum disease, Dr. Sninski and Dr. Schmitt, two dentists in Cary, NC, are breaking down what they are, their differences, warning signs, and how you can prevent them.
What Is the Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis?
Gingivitis refers to gum inflammation and is gum disease in its earliest form. If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into periodontitis, or gum disease, that can lead to infection, tooth loss, and other serious complications.
What Is Gingivitis?
Around the teeth and gums is plaque, a thin, sticky substance made up of food particles and bacteria. If not removed by brushing and flossing, the bacteria release acids that break down enamel and cause tooth decay, and the plaque at and below the gum line begins to harden into tartar. As bacteria build up around the gums, they become inflamed and irritated, leading to redness, swelling, tenderness, and even bleeding in more serious cases.
Fortunately, by adopting proper dental health routines and seeing a dentist regularly, gingivitis can be reversed.
What Is Periodontitis?
Periodontitis is when gingivitis has gone untreated and becomes gum disease. The gums pull away from the teeth and create gaps around the bone, and debris and bacteria collect in these small pockets. Over time, the bacteria, as well as enzymes that fight infection, begin to wear away the bone and tissues holding the teeth in place. Without professional attention from a dentist, the disease grows worse, destroying the tissues and allowing the teeth to become unanchored and loose. When this happens, tooth loss is likely as well as serious infection and abscesses.
Signs of gum disease include:
- Bad breath and/or a bad taste in the mouth
- Receding gums or the formation of deep pockets around the gums and teeth
- Loose teeth
- Changes in how your teeth fit together when you bite down.
What Causes Gum Disease
Gum disease is most often caused by poor dental health care and allowing plaque to build up around the teeth. However, other factors can lead to periodontitis, including:
- Pregnancy and menopause, when gums become more sensitive and inflamed;
- Immune health disorders, including diabetes, cancer, and HIV.
- Chronic dry mouth, often caused by medications
- Genetic history of gum disease
How to Prevent Gum Disease
Now that you understand what gingivitis and periodontitis are and their causes, it’s important to know how to prevent them.
- Quit smoking
- Drink water throughout the day to keep your teeth rinsed of particles that can lead to plaque.
- Brush teeth twice a day using a fluoridated toothpaste and ADA-approved toothbrush.
- Floss daily. If gums are prone to bleed, use waxed floss that can glide between the teeth more easily.
- Have regular dental checkups and teeth cleanings.
- Discuss chronic health conditions such as diabetes with your dentist to ensure a proper plan of care.
- Avoid sugar and highly acidic foods that can feed bacteria in the mouth.
Schedule a Checkup at Our Cary Dental Office
We want to help you keep your teeth and gums healthy, so if you need to schedule a teeth cleaning and checkup, we are here to help! Call us at our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and our Cary, NC dentist office at (919) 467-2203, or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment.