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What is the Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontal Disease?

Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease, marked by red, swollen gums that may bleed easily, often caused by plaque buildup. If left untreated, it can advance to periodontal disease, where the infection spreads, damaging the bones and tissues supporting teeth. Are you aware of the signs that distinguish these conditions and how to prevent their progression? Continue reading to learn more.
A.E. Freeman
A.E. Freeman

Gingivitis and periodontal disease occur when a person's gums become infected with bacteria. While gingivitis is a type of periodontal disease, it is a mild one and can be treated by a thorough teeth cleaning. Treatment for other types of periodontal disease may be a bit more involved, especially if the disease has progressed.

The best solution for gingivitis and periodontal disease is prevention. A person should brush his teeth at least twice a day, or after every meal. He should also floss at least once a day to remove loose particles of food and debris from between his teeth. Annual or semi-annual professional dental cleanings are also a good way to prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease. If a person has a high risk for gum disease, he may need to see his dentist more often.

The parts of a tooth.
The parts of a tooth.

Aside from gingivitis, other types of periodontal disease include periodontitis and trench mouth, also known as necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis. These two periodontal diseases are more severe than gingivitis. Trench mouth and periodontitis happen when harmful bacteria grow out of control in a person's mouth.

Symptoms of trench mouth are similar to those for gingivitis and periodontal disease. A person may experience bad breath as well as red, swollen, and bleeding gums. Ulcers often form on a person's gums. Treatment for trench mouth generally involves taking prescription antibiotics to kill the bacteria as well pain relievers. Cleaning the teeth properly will also help clear up trench mouth. The disease has become rare in developed countries, due to advances in dental care.

The stages of periodontal disease.
The stages of periodontal disease.

Untreated gingivitis can turn into periodontitis. A person suffering from periodontitis may notice that gaps are appearing between his teeth. Pus may form in pockets between the teeth and gum. In some cases, the teeth become loose. A person with periodontitis also has an increased risk of a heart attack or a stroke, because the bacteria from his gums can enter his blood stream and cause inflammation of his arteries.

Dental cleanings can help prevent gingivitis.
Dental cleanings can help prevent gingivitis.

If the disease is caught early enough, treatment for periodontitis may not too involved. A person can take antibiotics to clear up the infection. His dentist may also scale his teeth to remove built up tartar and plaque. In order for these treatments to be effective, a person must practice good oral hygiene and brush and floss regularly.

Surgery may be required if a person's periodontal disease has progressed far enough that the tooth's bone has been destroyed. Types of surgery include bone grafting and soft tissue grafting. A person may also undergo flap surgery, where his dentist cuts into the gum so that he can scale the teeth more easily.

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