Know the Difference: Gingivitis and Periodontitis

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Gum disease is unpleasant, but the vast majority of adults will come into contact with a mild form of it at some point in their lives.  Usually, you'll be able to clear it up yourself by sticking to – or implementing – a good oral cleanliness routine, involving brushing your teeth at least twice a day.  However, all gum disease is not equal, and you should know how to tell the difference between the two main forms.  Either way, you should see a dentist to help you – but an understanding of how serious the problem is should help you deal with it more effectively.

What is Gingivitis?

This is the mild form of gum disease, caused by bacteria in plaque and identifiable by bleeding gums when you brush your teeth.  They may also be slightly inflamed, and you may notice that your gums form slight ridges around your teeth.  It should be reiterated that this is a mild condition and no cause for serious alarm, but it is still worth taking seriously lest it develops into serious gum disease.  Frankly, the symptoms are so light that you stand a good chance of not noticing them yourself.  As such, you should be visiting the doctor with relative frequency, at least every one to two years, so that they are able to pick up on them for you.

What is Periodontitis?

When gingivitis worsens, it can turn into a condition called periodontitis – which is generally what people mean when they refer to 'gum disease' as a whole.  You'll notice severe swelling of the gums, and the bacteria is likely to begin doing damage to your teeth.  You may also notice gaps between your teeth and your gums where plaque and dirt gathers.  it is perfectly treatable, but should be taken seriously, as it can have serious consequences if left untreated.  The most severe cases can require surgery – but the vast majority of the time, if you're seeing a dentist at least once every two years, it should not come to this.

If you are suffering from either form of gum disease, you should know that it's not necessarily caused by uncleanliness; the causes aren't always known but can range from a poor immune system all the way through to allergic reactions.  As such, you should not feel embarrassed seeking help.  So long as you're proactive about the problem, it should clean up in no time.  However, if you know you're prone to gum disease or have recently had it, you should ensure you keep seeing a doctor regularly – at least once a year – in order to prevent reoccurrance.