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The difference between gingivitis and periodontitis

The difference between gingivitis and periodontitis

Created: September 22, 2022 | Updated: December 19, 2022

Your gums are important. It protects your jawbone and keeps your tooth roots from being exposed. Exposed tooth roots mean exposed nerve canals, which manifests itself in sensitive teeth. Healthy teeth are therefore characterised by healthy gums. Good oral hygiene and replacing your toothbrush can prevent a lot of suffering, but anyone can get gingivitis. This is called gingivitis and can lead to periodontitis. But what is the difference between gingivitis and periodontitis and what can you do about it?

Gingivitis vs periodontitis, what’s the difference?

The Latin word for gums is gingiva and anything ending in -itis indicates inflammation. So gingivitis is gum inflammation. Bacteria in your plaque can excrete substances that irritate the gums. This is how gingivitis occurs. If the inflammation has spread towards your jawbone, we call it periodontitis. So periodontitis is a more serious, painful version of gingivitis where your teeth can fall out.

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How do I know if I have periodontitis or gingivitis?

Healthy gums don’t bleed when you brush your teeth. Yet it does happen occasionally. Not an immediate reason to stress, but pay attention to your mouth. Do your gums have a fiery red colour, are they swollen or loose? Does your breath not smell fresh without having eaten garlic? Then chances are you have (incipient) gum inflammation. You can do a lot about this yourself through good oral hygiene. If it bothers you a lot, a visit to the dentist is recommended. If you do nothing about your (incipient) gingivitis, the infection will have a chance to spread to your jawbone. Your gums will become increasingly loose and plaque will cause your jawbone to crumble. Teeth and molars no longer have a hold on your jawbone and gums, and fall out of your mouth.

Don’t ignore the signs of gum disease

As mentioned above, your teeth can fall out if you ignore gum disease. Treating periodontitis differs from treating gingivitis and can only be done by a dentist. If you wait too long to do so, you may only be able to see a periodontist, a dentist specialising in gums. There is an increasing chance that they can still save your teeth from falling out, but surgeries like this are so easily preventable by maintaining good oral hygiene and seeing your dentist in time at signs of gum disease.

Prevent gum disease with good oral hygiene

To prevent gingivitis and to treat (incipient) gingivitis, good oral hygiene is important. This includes brushing your gums daily. With a soft brush, because gums are sensitive. If you brush too hard, your gums will pull back irreparably. Cleaning between the teeth is also important, especially in places where the brush does not reach. Floss or dust daily to avoid giving plaque a chance.

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What can you do against gingivitis?

Brush, brush and brush again. Daily, preferably two and up to three times. With a toothpaste that strengthens your gums. Brush well and gently along the edges of your gums. Use floss, toothpicks and brushes for the areas your toothbrush can’t reach properly. Rinse your mouth with an antibacterial rinse and before you know it, your gums will be stronger than ever.

What can you do about periodontitis?

To treat periodontitis, you should visit a dentist immediately. In severe cases, you will get a referral to a specialist, the periodontist.

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Frequently asked questions

Gingivitis is an (incipient) inflammation of your gums. If the inflammation is not only in your gums, but also in your jawbone, we call it periodontitis. Periodontitis is a very serious, untreated gingivitis.

In periodontitis, your jawbone is inflamed. At its worst, you notice this by teeth falling out. Your gums are loose, flaming red, painful and bleeding, especially when brushing.

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