Gingivitis vs. Periodontitis

Author: Dr. Alison Vitelli, DMD

Today we are going to be discussing several terms that some of you might have already heard, but do not necessarily know what they mean. We are going to be diving into some terms in Periodontology (study of the gums and its attachment and health). Two key dental term for our discussion will be Gingiva (gums) and Periodontium (anatomical complex of where and how the gingiva attaches to the bone that supports the teeth). It is of immense importance to keep this system in proper health, hence the importance of daily brushing and flossing. Plaque is the food and bacteria debris that accumulates on the tooth surface. Plaque accumulation is detrimental to the oral environment. It easily collects along the gumline and in between the teeth causing cavities and inflammation of the gingiva.

The most common condition found is gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). This is characterized by red, bleeding and sometimes swollen gums. Gingivitis is reversible by adequately brushing and flossing. Your gingiva should never bleed when brushing or flossing.

If gingivitis is not treated it can progress into Periodontitis, which is the inflammation of the periodontium (support system for teeth). It is diagnosed when we see the presence of bone loss. Unfortunately, periodontitis is not reversible. Bone loss can be stopped if properly treated, but it cannot be regained. This condition presents in different degrees of severity, as well as several complicating factors that contribute to the rate of progression. The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) makes sure all dentist stay current on the classification of the disease. Throughout the years, clinical studies have shown the direct link between periodontal conditions and systemic health issues. The mouth is in direct communication with the rest of your body. When there is inflammation of the gums or the bone, it also translates to an array of other inflammatory conditions in the rest of the body. Every time you come to get your teeth cleaned, we evaluate the level and health of your gums. We can’t stress enough the importance of good oral hygiene and regular hygiene visits.