Gingivitis vs. Periodontitis: What’s the Difference?

You may have heard of gingivitis and periodontitis before, but do you know the differences between these two conditions that affect your teeth?

‘Gingivitis’ is an inflammation or swelling of the gums, while ‘periodontitis’ or gum disease means there is an actual infection in the gums. Gingivitis is often a sign that gum disease may develop.


Gingivitis occurs when the bacteria in your mouth cause a build-up of plaque, a sticky layer of bacteria that can increase your risk of tooth decay as well as gum disease. This build-up causes the gums to become inflamed and bleed when you brush or floss. When left untreated, gingivitis can lead to gum disease.

Periodontitis or Gum Disease

Periodontitis (more commonly known as ‘gum disease’) is a type of infection that causes the gum to pull away, exposing teeth to germs and leaving them vulnerable. As plaque grows below the gum line, both gum tissue and bone can be destroyed, causing teeth to become loose. In fact, gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults.

Plaque is the primary cause of gum disease, but there are other factors that can cause gum disease. These include:

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

Preventing Gingivitis and Gum Disease

You can lower your risk of developing gingivitis, periodontitis, or other health- related complications by keeping up with good oral health habits. Brush and floss daily to remove plaque from your teeth and gums. Also keep up with your regular dental visits, including professional cleanings and gum evaluations.

About the Author

Bailey Moorhead, ‎DMD Candidate
University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine - ‎University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine

The information on this article is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Tooth Wisdom® and Oral Health America do not recommend or endorse any specific dentists, products, procedures, opinions, or other information mentioned. See full Terms & Conditions.

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