Gingivitis vs Periodontitis: What Are the Differences?

May 11, 2019
Gingivitis vs Periodontitis: What Are the Differences?
Periodontitis, periodontal disease, and gum disease all refer to the same thing, a bacterial infection of the mouth which leads to gum damage and eventual loss of teeth if not properly treated.

Periodontitis, periodontal disease, and gum disease all refer to the same thing, a bacterial infection of the mouth which leads to gum damage and eventual loss of teeth if not properly treated.

Periodontitis vs Gingivitis

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums and usually proceeds periodontitis. A buildup of bacteria in the plaque on your teeth causes the gums to become inflamed and sore. A common symptom is that your teeth bleed easily when you are brushing them.

When discussing gingivitis vs periodontitis, the main difference is that gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease and is not irreversible. Although your gums might be sore, there is no permanent damage to the bone or gum tissue and with the proper treatment, your gums can be restored to perfect health.

If it is left untreated, however, gingivitis will develop into full-blown periodontitis. In sufferers of periodontitis, the gums start to recede and pull back from the teeth, leaving little spaces between the gums and teeth. These, then, become full of dirt and debris, which leads to infection, and the plaque continues to spread below the gum line.

Toxins produced by the bacteria in this plaque attack the bone of your jaw and break down the tissue holding your teeth in place. As the infection progresses, your teeth become loose and eventually fall out.

Causes of Gingivitis and Periodontitis

As we said, bacteria in plaque is the main cause of gingivitis and periodontal disease but other factors can also contribute, and these are:

  • Hormonal changes, whether as a result of puberty, menstruation, pregnancy or menopause, can make gums more susceptible to gingivitis.
  • Illness. When you are sick, your immune system is impaired as it fights the infection, leaving your body more vulnerable to other infections. People with diabetes are at much higher risk of
  • developing infections such as gingivitis as their body cannot properly deal with blood sugar.
  • Medications that cause “dry mouth” can also increase your chances of developing gum infection as they reduce the flow of your saliva, one of the body’s main weapons in fighting mouth bacteria.
  • Bad habits such as smoking or excessive consumption of candy, alcohol or soft drinks also make it harder for the gums to protect and heal themselves.
  • Bad oral hygiene allows plaque to build up, giving bacteria perfect breeding ground.

Causes of Gingivitis and Periodontitis

Symptoms of Gingivitis

Gingivitis can develop for some time before there are any immediately obvious symptoms, so it is important to be on the lookout for the warning signs, which are:

  • Bleeding gums during or after brushing.
  • Gums that feel tender or look red or swollen.
  • Persistent bad breath or a lingering bad taste in your mouth.

Symptoms of Periodontitis

The symptoms of periodontitis, the more advanced stages of gum disease are:

  • Receding gums
  • Pockets forming between gums and teeth
  • Changes in the way your jaws fit together when biting
  • Loose teeth
  • Tooth loss


Treatment will depend on the stage of development of the infection and the patient’s own medical history.

  • Gingivitis can be treated by controlling the bacterial growth in the mouth with medicinal washes.
  • Periodontitis is treated with procedures such as scaling, removing tartar and bacteria from your tooth surfaces and beneath your gums, or root planing, smoothing the roots of your teeth to remove bacterial by-products and prevent a buildup of plaque. Late-stage periodontitis might require dental bone-graft surgery to restore damaged bone tissue in your jaw.

It is important to remember that prevention is better than cure. Good oral hygiene is your best defense against gum disease and cavities. Also, as the symptoms might not be immediately obvious to the untrained eye, you should schedule regular yearly check-ups for yourself and your family and not just visit the dentist in emergencies.

So, book an appointment with us here, at Doral Sedation Dentistry, whether you’re seeing red in the sink every time you brush or not.