What’s the Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis?
Gingivitis. ~itis usually refers to ‘inflammation’ and ‘Gingivae’ is the origin for gums. So ‘Gum + Inflammation’.
Gingivitis is usually seen in patients before it progresses to Periodontitis (perio = periodontium/support structures of the teeth like bone & gums).
When bacteria or infection is not cleaned away from a wound – such as a cut on your finger for example, it becomes infected and inflamed. Gingivitis is a similar process, where bacteria in plaque is not effectively cleaned away – so the gum becomes inflames and infected.
The body’s immune system detects the bacteria and tries to fight it by making it inflamed, and sending chemicals in the blood to the area, with the hope that the chemicals and enzymes can break down the bacteria.
If left untreated, Gingivitis, will advance to ‘periodontitis’. As these chemicals and the inflammation in the area will start to damage other tissues and have little effect on the bacteria that isn’t being removed.
Periodontitis starts by the inner layers of gum and bone starting to be destroyed and ‘moving away’ from the bacteria next to the tooth. This creates small ‘pockets’ which actually lead to more plaque and debris collecting.
This process continues, with the body trying to fight the infection and move away from it, but inadvertently damaging your own gums and bone in the process.
Eventually, these pockets can become deep enough to cause loss of bone, ultimately causing loss of teeth.
Although bacteria are the main cause of gum diseases, they can arise due to hormonal changes (pregnancy/puberty etc). Certain illnesses can also affect the gums such as cancers, HIV, diabetes, or immunocompromising conditions. Some medications also have an affect on the gums as they often reduce saliva – lowering the mouth’s natural protection mechanism. Smoking also causes problems as it can reduce blood flow, reduce healing, and ability to repair.
Gum disease is usually pretty painless for most patients. Even in later stages of the disease, very little pain or discomfort are noticed. It is important to take note of your gum condition and to schedule regular appointments with your dentist to catch changes you may be unaware of.
Some symptoms to keep an eye out for are:
- Gums that bleed during and after tooth brushing
- Red, swollen, or tender gums
- Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
- Receding gums
- Formation of deep pockets between teeth and gums
- Loose or shifting teeth
- Changes in the way teeth fit together upon biting down, or in the fit of partial dentures.
- Even if you don’t notice any symptoms, you may still have some degree of gum disease. In some people, gum disease may affect only certain teeth, such as the molars. Only a dentist or a periodontist can recognize and determine the progression of gum disease
How Is Gum Disease Treated?
The goals of gum disease treatment are to try and encourage the body to stop fighting the area and to encourage the gums to re-attach to teeth; reduce swelling, the depth of pockets, and the risk of infection; and to stop disease progression. Treatment options depend on several factors and your dentist will go through them with you.
Ultimately, the main thing that needs to happen is effective removal of plaque and bacteria. With your help, dental clinicians are able to encourage healthy repair and stop the disease before it’s too late.
In addition to this, patients can also employ other health and lifestyle changes. Such things may be to stop smoking, reducing stress, maintaining a balanced diet, reducing clenching or teeth grinding. Your dental clinician may go through a few of these with you.