Gingivitis and periodontitis are two oral conditions which, while sharing many of the same symptoms, have a number of significant differences. But in order to take a look at the differences, we really need to first see their similarities.
Both gingivitis and periodontitis are conditions that relate to the gums and both are the result of bacterial build up due to less than perfect oral hygiene. We say ‘less than perfect’ rather than ‘poor’ because in reality, even if you brush twice daily, floss, and rinse with a good mouthwash, it can be hard to prevent the build-up of bacteria over time. While fewer children and younger adults suffer from gum problems, many adults who visit us over the age of 40, will show signs of gum problems in one form or another. It’s true to say, that the older you are, the more likely you are to suffer from gingivitis, periodontitis or both. So, if most adults over the age of 40 suffer from some kind of gum disease then surely it can’t be that bad right? Well, yes and no! Let’s explain…
The first thing you should know is that gingivitis always comes before periodontitis! In other words, it’s not possible to suffer with periodontitis without first having gingivitis. That said, gingivitis doesn’t always lead to periodontitis and even when it does, it isn’t possible to estimate the time that one will lead to the other.
Over time plaque can build up where the teeth and gums have not been brushed sufficiently. Enzymes and toxins contained within plaque can lead to an inflammation of the gums (this is when they become red and can often bleed when being brushed). These are the most common complaints. The good news is that while gingivitis can be unpleasant it doesn’t cause long-term damage. In other words as unwelcome as it might be, it isn’t a condition that leads to tooth loss. Periodontitis on the other hand…Well that’s a whole different ball game! For ease of recognition we can say that periodontitis is in fact an advanced stage of gum disease and as you can imagine, that’s a lot more serious.
When a patient has periodontitis all the conditions of gingivitis will still be present including enflamed or reddened gums and bleeding while brushing. Now however, further attack from bacteria will cause the gums to recede from the tooth. As the gum recedes there is less bone for the tooth to anchor into and eventually, the tooth will become loose, and eventually need extraction. Perhaps more alarmingly, there is some evidence to show that periodontitis can exacerbate a whole host of other conditions including heart conditions, diabetes, pregnancy issues including pre-eclampsia and even Alzheimer’s Disease. Now for the good news… Both gingivitis and periodontitis are treatable. Gingivitis can usually be reversed within a few weeks utilising professional cleaning and plaque removal and if necessary, an antibiotic mouthwash may also be recommended. Periodontitis may also be treated using non-surgical processes such as scaling and root planning; or if the condition is more serious, surgical procedures such as gum pocket reduction, coupled with ongoing meticulous home care can halt the disease process.
Because both conditions share many of the same symptoms, it isn’t really possible to self-diagnose either one. In reality, the only way to tell is to undergo a dental check-up. In fact, because no pain is felt when a patient has gingivitis and indeed, the same goes for many aspects of periodontitis, regular check-ups are the best way of ensuring that any problems diagnosed can be treated quickly before they escalate.
Both gingivitis and periodontitis are not rare conditions caused by abject failure to maintain oral hygiene, Instead they are incredibly common conditions which are actually hard to avoid. Here at Chesterfield Dentistry, Dr Melba Akinwande and the team are highly skilled and well equipped to help with all your dental concerns. With our brand of gentle dentistry we have an ethos of putting patients first. So don’t ignore the problem, give us a call today on 314 786 3360 and let us give you restore a healthy happy smile that you can be proud of.