You've probably heard of periodontitis and gingivitis from lectures by a dentist or countless commercials and ads about products that help prevent either condition. You need to know the difference between the two so that your prevention efforts will work. It also helps to understand these two conditions in case you need to explain your symptoms to your dentist or doctor.
It is merely a general term used for gum disease. Bacteria builds up and begins to grow in your mouth which leads to several complications including bleeding gums, tooth loss, and tooth decay. Periodontitis is almost always caused by inadequate oral hygiene. Other factors may come into play and increase your chances, but maintaining excellent oral health is the best way to prevent periodontitis.
Gum disease is one of the most common conditions we face. Your mouth is the perfect breeding habitat for bacteria. The bacteria that cause periodontitis are always present in your mouth, but they need the right conditions to harm your gums and teeth. Plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth and beneath your gums speed up bacterial growth.
Periodontitis is an infection in your gums, but some dentists also refer to conditions that lead to gum disease as periodontitis as well. Technically, gingivitis is a form of periodontitis. However, since gingivitis is usually just inflammation or bleeding without infection, doctors and dentists separate the two conditions. Gum disease, periodontitis, and gingivitis all go together, only in different stages.
Gingivitis is swelling and inflammation in your gums that may be a sign of impending gum disease. Symptoms of gingivitis don't mean you will get gum disease, but it's an indication that problems exist in your mouth. If ignored, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis and other gum or tooth problems. Gingivitis is usually the first stage that lays the foundation for more severe tooth and gum problems.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE
Like we mentioned above, gingivitis is technically periodontitis, but gingivitis is typically the first sign that something worse is coming your way. In its early stages, plaque builds up, and bacteria begin to grow in the plaque. The bacteria cause your gums to become inflamed, and you may experience bleeding around your teeth when you brush them. Other symptoms to watch for include:
- Tender gums
- Bad breath
- Receding gums
- Darkening gums
- Gaps between your gums and teeth
Step up your oral hygiene game and talk to your dentist if you have any of these symptoms and they persist or recur often. If ignored, gingivitis and periodontitis may cause your teeth to fall out, and you could experience bone loss or weakening in your jaw. You should always practice excellent oral hygiene but catching the symptoms early and correcting any problems may help as well.
The early stages of gum disease don't come with many risks other than some discomfort. Inflamed or bleeding gums are warning signs that your oral hygiene is lax or that you need to talk to your dentist to find ways to improve it. Swollen gums this week is not a sign your teeth will start falling out next week. If you catch it early, most forms of gum disease can get treated and cleared up quickly.
Poor oral hygiene is at the heart of most mouth problems including those that affect your teeth and gums like gingivitis and periodontitis. Hurried and irregular brushing is arguably the most common reasons you may experience some forms of gum disease. When you rush through brushing your teeth, it’s unlikely you’ll get them clean especially toward the back of your teeth.
The first stage you may experience is plaque buildup. Plaque is invisible at first but may start to turn yellow if not removed from your mouth. It’s a film that forms on and around your teeth that’s mostly made up of bacteria. Sugar and starch in food help aid plaque when it’s trying to form, and you have to remove it daily, or it will come back quickly.
If you fail to clean plaque off your teeth regularly, it turns into tartar and may harden just under the edges of your gums. Tartar is more difficult to remove and offer a better breeding ground for harmful bacteria. If you have tartar buildup, it almost always requires professional cleaning to remove it. Otherwise, you probably won't get it all which leaves some of the bacteria free to damage your teeth.
The next stage is usually gingivitis. Plaque and tartar irritate your gingiva, the portion of your gums around the visible bottom of your teeth, and may cause it to become inflamed, start bleeding and recede away from your teeth. If plaque and tartar stay on your teeth for long periods, you risk tooth loss along with a few other complications.
RISK FACTORS FOR
Gingivitis is more common than you might imagine, especially around the teeth in the back. A few rushed attempts at brushing because you’re late for work or an appointment are all the bacteria need to get a foothold in your mouth. Luckily, paying attention and improving your oral hygiene may prevent or clear up any gingivitis woes.
However, several factors may increase your risk and nullify your oral hygiene attempts. Using smokeless tobacco and smoking significantly increase your chances of developing gum disease. Tobacco use may slow blood flow to your gums and promote infections. It may also increase your chances of developing problems with the bone where your teeth get anchored.
Poor nutrition and vitamin deficiencies may increase your risk as well. Proper nutrition is essential for all parts of your body to function and repair themselves. Vitamin C is crucial for tissue repair, so the lack of vitamin C increases your chance of developing gum problems like gingivitis. Adding a daily multivitamin to your nutrition plan is an excellent way to make sure you get plenty of vitamin C.
Crooked teeth or dental restorations like implants may increase your risk as well. Your gums may find it challenging to grow around crooked teeth and dental restorations. Gaps around these things give plaque and tartar an excellent growing environment. Unfortunately, correcting shoddy dental work and straightening teeth can get expensive.
Some medications may increase your risk of developing gum disease. Drugs used to treat high blood pressure, angina, and some types of seizures may increase your risk of developing infections or weaken your immune system. Any small infection in your mouth could get worse if you use these medications. Ask your pharmacist if your drugs might cause problems or aid gum disease.
During periods of hormonal changes like menstruation or pregnancy, oral hygiene is critical since your risk of gum disease may increase as well. Some forms of birth control can contribute to gum disease and raise your risk factors. Again, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to find out if you might be at risk.
HOW DO I PREVENT
You won’t get gingivitis or other gum and tooth problems is you rush out the door tomorrow morning without brushing your teeth. You may upset anyone that gets close to you or rides an elevator with you, but you won’t have any lasting issues, assuming you usually practice good oral hygiene. That said, taking excellent care of your teeth and gums is the best way to prevent gum disease.
The best way to start preventing tooth and gum problems is regular visits to your dentist for exams and cleanings. Tartar that forms from neglected plaque is difficult to remove on your own, so you need a professional cleaning if you suspect you have a tartar problem. Otherwise, talk to your dentist about the frequency of your visits and follow their advice.
Most people don’t know how to brush their teeth properly, and they probably aren't using the right toothbrush. Cleaning the surface areas of your teeth using a brush and toothpaste helps remove plaque and prevent it from building up on your teeth. Most of the surface area of your teeth can get cleaned using a toothbrush, but some areas need more work and specialized tools only your dentist can provide.
Some of your teeth may be too close together for a toothbrush to clean them effectively. Teeth that grow close together or come in a little crooked need some extra help for the area between them. Use dental floss or some other method to clean the places your toothbrush may miss. Get your dentist to show you the best way to clean these spots.
Use an antibacterial mouthwash after you brush your teeth. Mouthwash helps kill bacteria and prevents it from growing for a while. Keep some on hand at the office or on long trips to use after meals when you can't brush your teeth as quickly.
SOME FINAL NOTES
Gingivitis is technically a form of periodontitis which is just a fancy name for gum disease. Gingivitis is your early warning sign that you need to take better care of your teeth and gums. Practicing good oral hygiene and regular dentist visits are the best ways to prevent all forms of gum disease.