About 64.7 million Americans have periodontitis. But if you already have gingivitis, you’re well on your way to joining that statistic.

What’s the difference between gingivitis and periodontitis, and what can you do about it? Is there a cure or a way to reverse it? And how can you prevent it in the first place? We answer all your questions here.

What Is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is a form of gum disease. Most often it’s caused by not properly caring for your teeth or consistently practicing basic dental hygiene.

Gingivitis turns your gums red, especially around the base of your teeth. They may become swollen and sore, or bleed easily when you brush or floss.

What Causes Gingivitis?

Most often, gingivitis is caused by poor dental hygiene, but other factors can contribute to it.

Smoking, chewing tobacco, or poor nutrition are all potential factors. But old age, dry mouth, certain medications, or diseases that affect your immunity can contribute to gingivitis too.

What Are the Symptoms of Gingivitis?

If you notice any of these symptoms, see a dentist promptly and let them know you’re worried you may have gingivitis:

Gums that are swollen or puffy
Gums that are red instead of a healthy pink
Consistent bad breath that doesn’t go away
Bleeding when you brush or floss
Pain when you brush or floss

These are all symptoms of gingivitis, and you should see a dentist as soon as possible.

Is Gingivitis Reversible?

In most cases, gingivitis is reversible, but you have to be proactive about your care and oral hygiene going forward. Make sure you see your dentist as soon as possible. They may suggest a deep cleaning.

To fight gingivitis, you should cut smoking and chewing tobacco, and work diligently to brush and floss daily to protect your teeth.

If gingivitis is untreated, it progresses to periodontitis. This can cause bone loss around your teeth and tooth loss.

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What Is Periodontitis?

When gingivitis progresses too far, it becomes periodontitis. This is a serious gum disease that affects your bone structure. It can cause tooth loss, bone loss, and permanent jaw damage.

Fortunately, periodontitis is largely preventable.

What Causes Periodontitis?

Periodontitis occurs when gingivitis is left to develop unchecked.

While you can get rid of plaque by brushing and flossing, you need your teeth professionally cleaned to remove tartar.

With periodontitis, you develop pockets that fill with plaque, tartar, and bacteria. Unless they’re treated, they keep getting deeper, and that’s what causes bone loss and tooth loss.

What Are the Symptoms of Periodontitis?

Periodontitis shares many of the same symptoms as gingivitis. But you may also see:

Bleeding gums
Painful gums
Gums separating from teeth
Pus between your teeth and gums
Teeth that are loose or fall out

As you can see, as gingivitis progresses into periodontitis, the symptoms get more uncomfortable, and harder to reverse.

Is Periodontitis Reversible?

Wondering how to reverse gum disease? Especially when it feels like it’s too late?

You can try a procedure called periodontal scaling, which is more intensive than regular cleaning. It’s a deep clean that should clear up the plaque, tartar, and bacteria.

You may need root planing too. In root planing, the plaque, tartar, and bacteria are cleaned out. Your dentist reshapes the roots of your teeth so your gums can reattach to them the way they should.

If that doesn’t work, you can try surgery.

What If Periodontitis Goes Untreated?

Periodontitis can potentially wreak havoc on the rest of your body. It’s been linked to health problems like rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, heart disease. It can even cause low birth weight in infants.

No matter how far you feel like your periodontitis has progressed, it’s a health issue you need to take seriously. See a dentist right away.

Understanding the Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis

Now you know the difference between gingivitis and periodontitis. The big difference is how long the disease is left to progress unchecked.

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