Gingivitis vs. PeriodontitisThe terms “gingivitis” and “periodontitis” are often used interchangeably, but they are two different conditions along the spectrum of periodontal disease.
Gingivitis refers to inflammation of the gums due to an excess of plaque on the teeth. Signs of gingivitis include red, swollen gums, or gums that bleed easily when you brush your teeth. By contrast, periodontitis has progressed to more serious gum disease. One key sign of periodontitis: the gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, creating pockets where additional bacteria can build up and cause an infection. Many people do not notice symptoms of gingivitis, but signs of possible periodontitis include red, swollen, or bleeding gums, pain when chewing, poor tooth alignment, receding gums or pockets between the teeth and gums, sores on the inside of the mouth, and loose or sensitive teeth. (1), (2), (3)
Do you have gingivitis or periodontitis? Here are some tips for how to tell the difference.
- Age: Periodontitis is rare in teenagers, but they can develop gingivitis.
- Pain: Pain when chewing can be a sign that your periodontal disease has progressed from gingivitis to periodontitis.
- Tooth Condition: If you have gingivitis, your teeth should be firmly in place, although your gums may be irritated, red, and swollen. If a tooth or teeth are loose, you are more likely to have periodontitis.
- Breath: If your gingivitis has progressed to periodontitis, you may notice that you have persistent unpleasant breath due to the presence of excess bacteria in your mouth. (1), (2), (3)
Your Choices for Periodontitis TreatmentIf your dentist determines that you have periodontitis, the treatment will depend on the severity of the infection. Some options include:
- Tooth Scaling and Root Planing: During this two-step procedure to treat periodontitis, your dental professional will scrape off the tartar that has built up on teeth both above and below the gum line (tooth scaling). Next, your dental professional will smooth rough spots on the tooth roots, making it more difficult for acteria to collect and cause more plaque and tartar buildup.
- Flap Surgery: If the gum inflammation and pockets next to the teeth persist after a deep tooth-cleaning procedure, your dentist may recommend flap surgery. Flap surgery is a common dental procedure to treat periodontitis that is performed by a specialist called a periodontist. During flap surgery, the tartar is removed from the pockets that have formed alongside the teeth. The pockets are then closed with stitches, so the gum tissue once again hugs the teeth. Reducing the pockets makes it easier and more comfortable to brush and floss your teeth.
- Grafts: In severe cases of periodontitis in which bone and tissue have been destroyed, you may need bone or tissue grafts to replace the infected tissue. Your graft may involve a technique called guided tissue regeneration, in which a small piece of mesh is placed between the jaw bone and gums to allow both bone and tissue to re-grow. Guided tissue regeneration helps keep the gum tissue from expanding into the area where the bone should be, so both bone and tissue grafts have room to grow. (1), (2)