Gingivitis vs. periodontitis

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is a benign infection of the gums caused by an accumulation of bacteria. Poor oral hygiene leads to the proliferation of this bacteria. A whitish film called plaque forms on the surface of teeth and eventually makes its way under the gums, causing them to swell.

Gingivitis is a very common infection:

  • Approximately 70% of adults will suffer from gingivitis in their lifetime
  • 64% of pregnant women develop gingivitis
  • 50% of people with diabetes suffer from periodontal disease

Signs of gingivitis

Because gingivitis is usually painless and subtle, it can sometimes go unnoticed.

Over time, the following signs may become more evident:

  • Bleeding gums during brushing, flossing or eating (e.g. biting into an apple)
  • Swollen, red gums
  • Sensitive gums
  • Bad breath

How is gingivitis treated?

Gum disease is treatable. First, a dental hygienist will remove all plaque and tartar from your teeth. Then you must follow a rigorous oral hygiene routine that includes brushing twice a day and flossing before bed. This will stop gum disease from progressing and eliminate swelling.

Possible complication: Periodontitis

If nothing is done about gingivitis, it will worsen and, in 30% of cases, become periodontitis. This much more serious infection reaches the periodontium, which is all the tissues that support teeth (gums, cementum, alveolar bone, periodontal ligament).

Once affected by bacteria under the gums, the tissues can no longer carry out their functions, leading to serious oral health consequences.

In addition to gingivitis symptoms, periodontitis also leads to:

  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Gingival recession
  • Loose teeth
  • Abscesses
  • In severe cases, loss of teeth

Treating periodontitis

Early intervention is best when treating periodontitis. It stops the illness from getting worse and restores the teeth’s support structures.

The periodontist prepares a treatment plan that can vary, depending on the severity of the situation:

  • Deep cleaning of periodontal pockets to remove bacteria stuck on teeth and roots
  • Surgery for severe cases
  • Antibiotics to control harmful bacteria
  • In some cases, gingivoplasty is needed to reshape gums, making them look more natural and uniform around teeth


To prevent gingivitis, plaque has to be removed from teeth every day. Naturally-occurring bacteria in the mouth has to be controlled and maintained at minimum levels to prevent them from insidiously attacking tooth enamel.

Proper oral hygiene is the key to success:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day
  • Use dental floss
  • Use mouthwash
  • Use the right toothbrush (small head and soft bristles)
  • Use fluoride toothpaste

Practicing good oral hygiene is essential to gum health. Scheduling regular cleanings by a dental hygienist is also an important preventive measure.

Only your dentist can diagnose periodontal disease. Regular check-ups will help you maintain optimal gum health.