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Gingivitis Vs. Periodontitis; What is the Difference?

You may arrive to your next dental appointment and hear your hygienist or dentist mention the words ‘gingivitis’ or ‘periodontitis’, and think to yourself, what in the world!? Although neither are something you want to have, our team here at Glenmore Dental strive to ensure you understand & can actively prevent disease & manage your gingival health.

So what is Gingivitis? By definition, Gingivitis is the Inflammation of the Gums!

It can be characterized by the following signs & symptoms:

  • Bright red coloured gums

  • Bulbous or swollen appearance

  • Bleeding when brushing or flossing

  • Tenderness upon brushing or flossing

The main cause of gingivitis is associated with poor oral hygiene & the plaque which accumulates on your teeth.

  • Plaque is a clear/ white sticky layer which forms when the bacteria in your mouth mix with & begin breaking-down the foods you eat, especially sugary or starchy foods.

  • Plaque forms quickly, so it’s important to remove plaque daily. The longer plaque sits on your teeth, the more time bacteria have to produce an acidic oral environment, which is perfect for causing cavities & irritating your gums!

  • The soft plaque which you can brush off, will begin to harden & eventually turn into calculus, which only your dental hygienist can remove with professional scaling.

Now that we’ve tackled the basics of Gingivitis, let me introduce you to Periodontitis-- (gingivitis’ older & meaner sibling, lol)

The thing with gingivitis is that it can be REVERSIBLE with good hygiene habits, frequent visits to your hygienist for professional scaling, & management of your overall health conditions. However, the main difference between gingivitis and periodontitis, is that periodontitis is IRREVERSIBLE!

Periodontitis is defined as the inflammation of the bone surrounding your teeth with permanent damage to your gums & bone!

It is characterized by the following signs & symptoms:

  • Bright red, dark red or purple gums

  • Swollen or bulbous appearance

  • Increased sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures

  • Gums may look like they have slid (receded) down the teeth; teeth appear longer than normal

  • Yellowing around the base of the tooth near your gumline

  • New or growing spaces between the teeth

  • Puss coming from the gums

The main cause of periodontitis is associated with untreated gingivitis. If you do not actively take steps to resolve your gingivitis, it likely will progress, from the gingiva, deeper down into the surrounding bone and tissues which your teeth sit in.

  • Ongoing inflammation of the gingiva will eventually lead the infection to deteriorate your gums, allowing plaque to form deeper down, and start impeding on the bone levels.

  • As your bone starts breaking down and receding, your gingiva will follow the bone, thus causing the recession & elongated appearance of teeth, exposing the root surfaces of your teeth.

  • Roots of teeth do not have the same protective covering that the crowns of your teeth have, called enamel. This means you may start experiencing increased sensitivity to hot & cold temperatures, have an increased risk for cavity formation on your roots, and have an increased risk for lose/ wiggly teeth & long-term losing your teeth.

  • Unfortunately, unlike the rest of the bones in your body, once you lose bone in your mouth, it will not heal/ grow back. The only resolution to bone loss is through bone & gum grafting which is performed by a Periodontal specialist.

Link between your Oral & Overall health:

The complexity of your gum & oral bone health is immense. The bacteria which thrive in plaque and calculus can break off and enter your blood stream through your gums, possibly leading to larger health problems such as coronary artery disease, difficulties controlling blood-glucose levels in diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.

Risk factors for Gingivitis and Periodontitis:

  • Poor oral hygiene

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco

  • Genetic predisposition to bone loss

  • Old age

  • Dry mouth or xerostomia caused by medications

  • Medications used for seizures, high blood pressure, & diabetes

Prevention for both gingivitis and periodontitis include:

  • Good oral hygiene at home: Brushing your teeth two times per day for at least 2 minutes using proper techniques as taught by your hygienist in addition to flossing ideally once per day to help keep between the teeth clean!

  • Regular hygiene visits to Glenmore Dental: Depending on your gingival health & other health factors, your hygienist may recommend you visit us twice, three or four times per year. This is determined by the periodontal measurements which your hygienist will assess annually or more frequently if needed.

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