What Is the Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease?

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums. Periodontal disease is any disease affecting the supporting structures of the teeth, including the gums, periodontal membrane and the bone that supports the teeth. One is a part of the other, and treatments are available.

Gingivitis Is a Stage of Periodontal Disease

“Periodontal” is a term that means “around a tooth.” When bacteria are in the mouth, gum disease can ensue. Gum disease is the overall description of the stages of periodontal disease. Those stages range from the often reversible gingivitis to where the tooth is undermined and eventually falls out.

When neglecting gingivitis, periodontal disease often progresses into non-reversible periodontitis. The suffix “-itis” in medical terminology denotes “inflammation.” Gingivitis includes swelling, redness and bleeding of the gums. Periodontitis goes deeper into the gums, connective tissue and the bone foundation that holds the teeth in place.

The Sad Statistics of Periodontal Disease*

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

  • Over 47% of adults past 30 years of age are at some stage of periodontal disease.
  • Over 70% of adults 65 or older suffer from periodontal disease.
  • Men (56.4%) are more likely than women (38.4%) to suffer from periodontal disease.
  • Periodontal disease affects 65.4% of people living below the federal poverty level.
  • People with less than a high school education have a high incidence (66.9%) of periodontal disease.
  • Smokers have a 64.2% chance of suffering from periodontal disease.

*Source: CDC Oral Health-Periodontal Disease

What Causes Periodontal Disease?

The short answer is bacteria. Poor dental hygiene can result in bacteria in the mouth infecting the tissue surrounding the tooth. When bacteria remain on the teeth, they eventually form a film called plaque. Plaque eventually hardens to tartar or calculus.

When plaque and tartar remain on the teeth, they irritate the gingiva—the part of the gum around the base of the tooth—causing gingivitis. Eventually, the gums bleed and become swollen, and cavities and tooth decay can often result.

When tartar builds up below the gum line, teeth cannot be adequately cleaned through routine brushing or flossing. A dental health professional must remove the tartar buildup to arrest the onset of periodontal disease.

Risk Factors and Warning Signs

You are at risk for gingivitis and developing periodontal disease if you:

  • Have poor oral hygiene habits
  • Take medication that causes dry mouth
  • Have poor nutrition, with a specific deficiency of vitamin C
  • Smoke or chew tobacco
  • Have older teeth
  • Have a family history of periodontal disease
  • Have poorly-fitting dentures or crooked teeth
  • Have immunodeficiency conditions like HIV/AIDS, leukemia or are being treated for cancer
  • Take drugs for epilepsy, angina, high blood pressure, etc.
  • Are pregnant or use birth control pills

“Completely painless procedures.”

– Charlie Sauer

How Your Dentist Treats Periodontal Disease

The most effective treatment at the dentist is a thorough cleaning of the pockets around your teeth to arrest damage to the surrounding bone.

Non-invasive Treatments

If your periodontitis is not advanced, you can expect a less invasive treatment that includes the following:

  • Scaling removes tartar and bacteria from tooth surfaces and under the bums. The therapy involves scraping instruments, an ultrasonic device or a laser.
  • Planing of the tooth root discourages further tartar buildup and removes the byproducts of bacteria that cause inflammation or impede the reattachment of the tooth surface to the gum.
  • Oral or topical antibiotics control bacterial infection. The antibiotics could include mouth rinses or gels inserted between the teeth and gums or the pockets after completion of the cleaning.

Surgical Periodontal Treatment

At Coastal Periodontics in Lake Jackson, we use periodontal surgery as the last resort if your gum disease is severe. Treatment options include:

  • Pocket reduction: when the gaps between the gums and teeth are too broad for home cleaning or routine professional care
  • Periodontal regeneration: to help grow new bone and supporting tissue to preserve an existing tooth
  • Functional crown lengthening: to restore a broken or decayed tooth that still has sufficient root structure below the gum line
  • Soft tissue gum grafting:to arrest further gum recession and prevent further bone loss

Advanced Periodontic Treatment Techniques

Dr. Marie-Claire Tredinick and her dedicated staff of professionals at Coastal Periodontics use advanced techniques to treat gum disease, including Lanap and the Pinhole Technique and platelet-rich fibrin for faster tissue regeneration after dental surgery.

What You Can Do To Prevent Periodontal Disease

By adopting a daily routine of brushing and flossing your teeth, a healthy diet and smoking cessation, you can do your part between dental office visits to keep standard plaque and tartar at bay. If your gums are receding, bleeding while brushing or you are experiencing sensitivity to hot and cold food, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist. The sooner you attend to the problem, the lower your risk of periodontal disease and tooth loss.

For more information or to make an appointment, call our office at 979-413-4799 or fill out our form online.

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Get a complete exam, X-rays and 3D CT scan all for $250. We’ll create a personalized care plan for the treatment that is best for you, whether the revolutionary Pinhole Technique for gum recession, laser assisted treatment for gum disease, and a variety of implant procedures to replace missing teeth or support dentures. Plus, you’re supporting your community – we’ll donate a portion of your fee goes to the charity of your choice.

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