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The Main Difference Between Gingivitis vs. Periodontitis

If your gums are tender, swollen, and bleeding, then it is more than an inconvenience. These symptoms could be an indication that you are living with gum disease – which means that you should seek dental treatment right away. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, our dental team might diagnose you with gingivitis vs. periodontitis.

What is the Main Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis?

Both periodontitis vs gingivitis are types of gum disease. The main difference is in the severity of the symptoms and the progression of the disease.

  • Gingivitis: In the early stages of gum disease, you will likely be diagnosed with gingivitis. These symptoms usually include swelling, redness, and bleeding gums. While the symptoms at this stage are uncomfortable, they usually aren’t causing any serious damage – yet. But it’s essential for every patient to understand that untreated gingivitis can still cause long-term damage, and even result in more serious consequences if the infection progresses into periodontitis.
  • Periodontitis: This diagnosis means that you have a more advanced form of gum disease. Not only are the gums swollen, tender, and bleeding, but the infection is starting to affect the soft tissue and bones, which are the supporting structures of the teeth. If this gum infection continues to be untreated, it could eventually lead to tooth loss and systemic health issues.

When Does Gingivitis Turn into Periodontitis?

The severity of your symptoms will turn from mild and uncomfortable to more severe when you are comparing gingivitis vs periodontal disease. At this point, immediate treatment is essential to avoid irreversible damage to your teeth and gums.

Talk to our dental team about the difference between gingivitis and periodontal disease and you’ll see that the symptoms are quite different. Which of the following best distinguishes periodontitis from gingivitis? Watch out for these symptoms of more severe gum infections:

  • Gum Recession: You can see the gums starting to pull away from the teeth. For example, you notice that the tooth looks longer or larger because the gums are no longer covering the root of the tooth.
  • Deep Pockets: When a gum check is done during your routine examination, the dental team finds deep pockets of infection lingering under the gum line.
  • Loose Teeth: If periodontitis is left untreated, you might notice that some of your teeth start to feel loose. Eventually, they can fall out because there is no longer a strong foundation to hold them in place.
  • Bad Breath: One symptom you might notice is chronic bad breath. Even if you brush your teeth, the smell or taste never seems to go away. If the gums are infected, then they can cause an unpleasant odor.

Which is Worse: Gingivitis or Periodontitis? Why?

While both gingivitis vs. periodontitis require treatment, it is worse to be diagnosed with periodontitis – because it means that your gum infection has progressed. These are the key differences between periodontal disease vs gingivitis:

  • Symptom Severity: Gingivitis results in minor symptoms, which can often be cleared up with good brushing and flossing habits at home. On the other hand, periodontal disease results in more serious symptoms that require immediate and intensive treatments. Gingivitis only affects the gums, while periodontitis can also affect the bone and surrounding tissues.
  • Reversibility: When gingivitis is caught in the earliest stages, it’s possible to reverse this condition. But periodontitis is often irreversible and can result in long-term damage. This is why early detection is critical to administer treatment in the gingivitis stage, which prevents the infection from progressing to periodontitis. When is it too late to reverse gum disease? It varies from one patient to the next – but the sooner the treatment, the more likely you will have a successful outcome.
  • Treatment: Basic treatments, such as a professional cleaning and good oral hygiene are often sufficient for gingivitis. Periodontitis usually requires more invasive treatments that can only be performed by a dental professional.

Treatment Solutions for Gingivitis vs. Periodontitis

If your gum disease is diagnosed in the earliest stages, then treatment might include better at-home oral habits (brushing and flossing), a special mouth rinse to fight bacteria, and a professional dental cleaning.

But once the gum disease progresses and reaches the stage of periodontitis, then you will likely need to go through treatments in the dental office. One common method is to use scaling and root planing, which involves removing the plaque and tartar buildup from under the gumline. The treatment might be uncomfortable, but it’s worth the discomfort to stop the progression of gum disease. Also, local anesthetics can be used if you are too uncomfortable.

Depending on how much the infection has progressed, it might be necessary to use antibiotics. Small antibiotic beads can be placed in the pockets of infection, to slow-release the medication over time. Or, some patients require oral antibiotics. In the rare situation where the infection goes systemic, then IV antibiotics sometimes need to be administered in an emergency room.

Also, consider that the progression of gum disease can cause gum recession, which sometimes leads to a need for surgery. Other treatments might require tooth extraction and the placement of a tooth restoration if your teeth are no longer being held securely in place because of gum disease.

Schedule a Consultation with Our Expert Team: myDental

Are you experiencing symptoms of gingivitis vs. periodontitis? Then, it’s time to schedule an examination and checkup with our team. We recommend that patients maintain appointments twice a year so that we can diagnose potential tooth or gum issues in the earliest stages.

At myDental, we offer dental services for the whole family. Book an appointment at one of our convenient locations.