Gingivitis vs. periodontitis: what’s the difference?

Both conditions relate to your gums, but what is the difference?  Actually, it turns out that gingivitis (gum inflammation) and periodontitis (gum disease) are closely related.  Gingivitis usually comes before, but does not necessarily always lead to, periodontitis.

Gingivitis is caused by bacteria that build up in plaque.  This causes the gums to become inflamed and to bleed during brushing.

When gingivitis is not treated, it may lead to gum disease.  Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.  This is because the inner layer of gum and bone pull away from the teeth, forming pockets that can become infected.  As plaque grows below the gum line, gum tissue and bone are destroyed, causing teeth to become loose.

Though plaque is the primary cause of gum disease, there are other factors that contribute:

  • Hormone changes
  • Illnesses (HIV, cancer, diabetes)
  • Medication
  • Smoking
  • Family history
  • Not brushing and flossing every day
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