Gingivitis and Gum Disease: What’s the Difference?

little boy brushing teeth

During toothpaste commercials or your biannual dental visits, you’ve probably heard about the dangers of gingivitis and gum disease. So what’s the difference between gingivitis and gum disease?

Gingivitis is characterized by an inflammation of the gums which actually precedes periodontitis (gum disease) however not all gingivitis leads to full-blown gum disease.  Gingivitis is caused when bacteria in plaque builds up on the tooth which causes the gums to become inflamed.

You can tell you are suffering from gingivitis if you notice that your gums are bleeding during regular tooth brushing. While the gums are irritated the teeth are still planted firmly in their sockets. There is very little bone loss or tissue damage during this stage.

If gingivitis is left untreated it can lead to a more serious condition known as periodontitis. During this stage, the inner layer of the gum and bone has begun to pull away from the teeth and create pockets. These pockets are the perfect hiding place for pesky debris and bacteria which leads to infection.

If periodontitis goes untreated it can lead to tooth loss, bone loss, and a weakened immune system.  Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in America.

What Causes Gum Disease?

Hormonal Changes: Hormonal changes brought about by pregnancy, puberty and menopause can make gums more sensitive which can lead to infection and gingivitis.

Medications: Different medications can affect oral health because they lessen the flow of saliva which has a protective effect on both teeth and gums.

Bad Habits: Smoking, eating sugary foods, and drinking soda all contribute to gum disease.

Poor Home Care: Remember to always brush your teeth and floss every single day. These are the tools you use to combat pesky gum disease.

For more information about gum disease visit your dentist at Tempe Smiles today!