Periodontitis vs. Gingivitis: Understanding the Difference

A close-up of a male holding his mouth open to show his sore gum

In the realm of dental health, two common terms often arise; periodontitis and gingivitis.

While both conditions are related to the health of our gums, they have distinct characteristics and implications.

This comprehensive article will cover the key differences between periodontitis and gingivitis, providing valuable insights into their causes, symptoms, treatment options, and preventive measures.

Periodontitis vs. gingivitis: What’s the difference?

Gingivitis and periodontitis are both forms of gum disease but represent different stages of the condition.

Understanding the contrast between the two is needed to address dental health concerns effectively.

Gingivitis: the early stage

Gingivitis is the initial stage of gum disease, characterized by inflammation of the gums.

It is primarily caused by the buildup of plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth.

Symptoms of gingivitis

  • Swollen and tender gums
  • Redness and discoloration of the gums
  • Bleeding during brushing or flossing
  • Bad breath
  • Receding gum line

Gingivitis, if left untreated, can progress to a more severe form of gum disease known as periodontitis.

Periodontitis: advanced gum disease

Periodontitis is an advanced stage of gum disease that occurs when gingivitis is left untreated.

It involves the infection and damage of the tissues surrounding the teeth, including the gums, ligaments, and bone.

The progression of periodontitis can lead to tooth loss and may require intensive dental intervention.

Symptoms of periodontitis

  • Persistent bad breath
  • Gum recession and deepening gum pockets
  • Loose teeth
  • Changes in bite alignment
  • Pus formation around the gums
  • Pain and discomfort while chewing

It’s important to note that periodontitis is a serious condition that requires professional dental treatment.

Seeking early intervention can help prevent further damage to oral health.

Treatment options for periodontitis and gingivitis

Prompt treatment and appropriate dental care are essential in managing and reversing gum disease.

The treatment options for periodontitis and gingivitis vary depending on the severity of the condition.

Gingivitis treatment

Professional dental cleaning: A dental professional will thoroughly clean the teeth and gums to remove plaque and tartar.

This procedure, known as scaling and root planing, helps reduce inflammation and allows the gums to heal.

Improved oral hygiene: Brushing at least twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and using dental floss or interdental brushes to clean between the teeth are crucial in maintaining good oral hygiene.

Dentists may provide guidance on proper brushing and flossing techniques.

Antimicrobial mouthwash: Using an antimicrobial mouthwash can help reduce bacteria in the mouth, promoting gum health.

Dentists may recommend an appropriate mouthwash to control plaque and gingivitis.

Regular dental checkups: Routine visits to the dentist allow for early detection and management of gingivitis.

Dentists can monitor the condition of your gums, provide professional cleanings, and offer personalized advice on maintaining optimal oral health.

Periodontitis treatment

Scaling and root planing: Similar to the treatment for gingivitis, scaling and root planing is a deep cleaning procedure that removes plaque and tartar from below the gumline.

This helps eliminate bacteria and reduces inflammation.

Antibiotics: In some cases of periodontitis, antibiotics may be prescribed to control infection and promote gum healing.

They can be administered orally or applied topically to the affected areas.

Surgical intervention: Advanced periodontitis may require surgical procedures to repair damaged tissues and restore oral health.

These procedures may include flap surgery, bone grafts, or tissue regeneration.

Ongoing maintenance: Following periodontal treatment, regular dental checkups and maintenance cleanings are essential.

Dentists will closely monitor the condition of your gums and provide ongoing care to prevent the recurrence of periodontitis.


Maintaining excellent oral health requires knowing the difference between gingivitis and periodontitis.

While gingivitis is the initial stage of gum disease and can be reversed with proper care, periodontitis requires professional intervention and ongoing management.

You can protect your gums and preserve your smile by practicing good oral hygiene, seeking regular dental checkups, and promptly addressing any signs of gum disease.

Schedule your dental checkup today and prevent possible gum disease!


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