What Are Gingivitis and Periodontitis?

What is Gingivitis

Gingivitis is a common and mild form of gum disease that causes irritation, redness, and swelling of your gums. Because gingivitis can be mild, you may not be aware that you have the condition. But it’s important to take gingivitis seriously and treat it promptly, as it can lead to much more serious gum disease (periodontitis) and even tooth loss.

Causes of Gingivitis

The most common cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene which encourages plaque to form. Plaque is an invisible, sticky film composed mainly of bacteria that forms on your teeth when starches and sugars in food interact with bacteria normally found in your mouth. Plaque requires daily removal because it re-forms quickly, usually within 24 hours.

Plaque that stays on your teeth longer than two or three days can harden under your gum line into tartar. Tartar can also develop, resulting from the mineral content in your saliva. Tartar makes plaque more difficult to remove and creates a protective shield for bacteria.

Treatment of Gingivitis

You usually can’t get rid of tartar by brushing and flossing; only a professional dental cleaning can remove it.

Dentists recommend regular checkups to identify gingivitis before it leads to more serious problems. If you notice any signs and symptoms of gingivitis, schedule an appointment: the sooner you seek care, the better your chances of reversing damage from gingivitis and preventing its progression to periodontitis.

What is Periodontitis

In a person with periodontitis, the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth and form pockets. These small spaces between teeth and gums collect debris and can become infected. The body’s immune system fights the bacteria as the plaque spreads and grows below the gum line.

Toxins or poisons – produced by the bacteria in plaque as well as by the body’s own ‘good’ enzymes involved in fighting infections – start to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. As the disease progresses, the pockets deepen and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. When this happens, teeth are no longer anchored in place, become loose, and tooth loss occurs.

Causes of Periodontitis

Again, plaque is the primary cause of gum disease. However, other factors can contribute as well, such as:

  • Hormonal changes, such as those occurring during pregnancy, puberty, menopause, and monthly menstruation, make gums more sensitive, which makes it easier for gingivitis to develop.
  • Illnesses may affect the condition of your gums. This includes diseases such as cancer or HIV that interfere with the immune system. Because diabetes affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar, patients with this disease are at higher risk of developing infections, including periodontal disease and cavities.
  • Medications can affect oral health, because some lessen the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on teeth and gums. Some drugs, such as the anticonvulsant medication Dilantin and the anti-angina drugs Procardia and Adalat, can cause abnormal growth of gum tissue.
  • Bad habits, such as smoking, make it harder for gum tissue to repair itself.
  • Poor oral hygiene habits such as not brushing and flossing on a daily basis, make it easier for gingivitis to develop.
  • Family history of dental disease can be a contributing factor for the development of gingivitis.

Signs and Symptoms of Periodontitis

• Swollen gums
• Bright red or purplish gums
• Gums that feel tender when touched
• Gums that pull away from your teeth, making them look longer than normal
• New spaces developing between your teeth
• Pus between your teeth and gums
• Bad breath
• Bad taste in your mouth
• Loose teeth
• A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite

Even if you don’t notice any symptoms, you may still have some degree of gum disease. For some people, gum disease may affect only certain teeth, such as the molars. Only a dentist or a periodontist can recognize and determine the progression of gum disease.

Complications from Periodontitis

Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults, but can also cause other serious health problems, such as:

• Stroke
• Coronary artery disease
• Premature, low birth weight babies
• Poorly controlled diabetes
• Respiratory problems
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Asthma

Some research suggests that the bacteria responsible for periodontitis can enter your bloodstream through your gum tissue, affecting your lungs, heart and other parts of your body. For instance, bacteria may travel to the arteries in your heart, where they might trigger a cycle of inflammation and arterial narrowing that contributes to heart attacks

Diagnosis of Periodontitis

Diagnosis of periodontitis is generally simple. Diagnosis is based on your description of symptoms and an examination. Your dentist will look for plaque and tartar buildup, and check for bleeding.

To determine how severe your periodontitis is, your dentist may:

Use a dental instrument to measure the pocket depth of the groove between your gums and your teeth. In a healthy mouth, the pocket depth is usually between 1 and 3 millimeters (mm). Pockets deeper than 5 mm may indicate periodontitis.

Take dental X-rays to check for bone loss in areas where your dentist observes deeper pocket depths.

Treatment of Periodontitis

Visit our Periodontal page to learn about LANAP (Laser Assisted New Attachment Procedure), which provides a minimally invasive alternative to traditional periodontal surgery. For the patient, LANAP can mean less pain, less bleeding, less swelling, less tissue removed, less down time, and less recovery time.

If you suspect you may have gingivitis or periodontitis and are looking for a dentist in Fort Smith, give us a call at 479-452-1738 or use this Contact Form to set up an appointment today!

Contact Us

If you live in the Fort Smith area and would like to discuss the best interdental cleaner for your particular situation, please call our office at 479-452-1738 or use our Contact Form to schedule an appointment!

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