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How Can I Tell if I Have Gingivitis or Periodontitis (Gum Disease)?

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How Can I Tell If I Have Gingivitis or Periodontitis (Gum Disease)?

Dec 14, 2023
A woman having a dental exam. The text reads, "How Can I Tell If I Have Gingivitis or Periodontitis (Gum Disease)?"

Proper gum health is extremely important for your long-term oral health. Plaque, bacteria, and other contaminants can harm your mouth and lead to negative effects such as tooth loss or bone loss. 

Gingivitis and periodontitis are two key gum diseases that can cause long-lasting harm to your mouth. 

In this post, we will go over the key differences between gingivitis and periodontitis and tell you the major risk factors for gum disease that you need to watch out for. 


Key Differences Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis 


Gum disease is a common dental problem that affects many people of all ages. Gingivitis and periodontitis are two different stages of gum disease. Gingivitis is the mildest form and can be easily reversed with proper oral care. However, periodontitis is a more severe form that can lead to tooth loss and even affect overall health. Understanding the difference between gingivitis and periodontitis is crucial for early detection and treatment. 

Next, let’s look at some of the common symptoms of gum disease so you can spot it before it becomes a problem.  


Gum Disease Symptoms 


Gum disease is a common oral health issue that affects millions of people worldwide. It's a bacterial infection that affects the tissues that surround and support your teeth.  

Comprising of various stages, including gingivitis (the mildest form) and periodontitis (the advanced stage), gum disease can have a severe impact on your quality of life. When left untreated, gum disease may cause tooth loss, bone loss, and a range of other complications. The good news is that gum disease is treatable, and the earlier you detect it, the easier it is to manage.  


Common Signs of Gingivitis 


Gingivitis is a form of gum disease that occurs due to the buildup of plaque and tartar on your teeth. It can cause inflammation and bleeding of the gums, which can lead to more serious health issues if left untreated. Here are some common signs of gingivitis: 


  1. Bleeding gums: One of the most common signs of gingivitis is blood in the sink when you brush or floss your teeth. This occurs due to inflammation and irritation of the gums.

  2. Redness and swelling: Gingivitis can cause the gums to become red, swollen, and tender.

  3. Pain and sensitivity: As the gums become inflamed, they may also become painful or sensitive to touch or pressure.

  4. Bad breath: Gingivitis can also cause bad breath, which may persist even after brushing your teeth. 


If you notice any of these signs, it's important to visit your dentist for a check-up. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent further damage to your gums and teeth. To prevent gingivitis, it's important to maintain good oral hygiene by brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting your dentist regularly for cleanings. 


Advanced Symptoms of Periodontitis 


Periodontitis, also known as advanced gum disease, is a serious oral health condition that can have significant consequences if left untreated. As the disease progresses, it can cause changes in tooth position and even lead to tooth loss. Pockets may also form between the gums and teeth, allowing bacteria to collect and cause further damage. 

In addition to these oral health symptoms, periodontitis can also have systemic effects on the body. The inflammation caused by the disease can spread throughout the body, leading to an increased risk of other health problems. Chronic bad breath can also be a symptom of advanced gum disease, as can the development of painful mouth sores.

In earlier stages, periodontal disease may present with symptoms such as bleeding gums, redness and swelling, and pain or sensitivity.  

If you experience any symptoms of gum disease, it's important to seek professional dental care as soon as possible. Treatment may include deep cleaning, root planting, and a balanced diet to support oral health. With early diagnosis and proper treatment, the progression of periodontitis can be stopped and the health of your teeth and gums can be restored. 


Risk Factors for Developing Gum Disease 


Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a bacterial infection that affects the gums and can cause damage to the bone and soft tissues supporting our teeth, leading to tooth loss. It is a common condition, with millions of people affected worldwide. Gum disease can be prevented, and early detection can lead to successful treatment. However, certain risk factors increase the chances of developing this condition.  

By understanding these factors, we can take steps to prevent or manage gum disease and maintain healthy teeth and gums for life. 




Periodontitis, commonly known as gum disease, is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the tissues surrounding the teeth. Poor oral hygiene and lifestyle factors such as smoking, and stress are well-established risk factors for periodontitis. However, genetics also play a crucial role in the development and severity of the disease. 

Several genetic risk factors have been associated with periodontitis, including variations in genes involved in immune response regulation, inflammation, and tissue destruction. Some examples of these genes are interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). Additionally, genetic variations in the vitamin D receptor (VDR) gene have been linked to periodontitis severity. 

Genetics can affect periodontitis development and severity by influencing the immune response and inflammation pathways. Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to mount an exaggerated or inadequate immune response to the bacteria responsible for periodontitis, leading to tissue destruction and bone loss. Moreover, certain genetic variations can increase the activity of enzymes that degrade connective tissue, exacerbating the condition. 


Poor Oral Hygiene 


Poor oral hygiene is a common and often overlooked cause of gum disease, which can lead to serious health consequences if left untreated. Neglecting your oral health can encourage the growth of harmful bacteria in your mouth, leading to plaque buildup and eventually gum disease. Poor oral hygiene behaviors include infrequent brushing and flossing, avoiding regular dental visits, and using low-quality oral hygiene products. 

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the surface of teeth and gums and can lead to gum disease if left unchecked. Daily brushing and flossing can help to remove plaque and prevent its accumulation, protecting your gum health. 

In addition to the negative impact on your oral health, poor oral hygiene can also increase the risk of systemic diseases. Studies have linked gum disease to an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Therefore, it is important to maintain proper oral hygiene habits and seek regular dental care to protect both your oral and overall health. By brushing and flossing regularly and visiting the dentist for professional cleanings and checkups, you can significantly reduce the risk of developing gum disease and other health problems associated with poor oral hygiene. 


Health Conditions & Medications 


Gingivitis and periodontitis are both forms of gum disease that can cause serious issues if left untreated. While poor oral hygiene and plaque buildup are the primary causes, certain health conditions and medications can also increase the risk of developing gum disease. 

Individuals with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing gum disease due to their body's inability to properly process sugar. HIV and cancer patients, as well as those undergoing chemotherapy, are also more susceptible to gum disease due to their weakened immune systems. 

Some medications, such as calcium channel blockers used to treat high blood pressure, can cause gum overgrowth and increase the risk of gum disease. Additionally, oral contraceptives have been linked to an increased risk of developing gingivitis. 

Other risk factors include stress and poor nutrition. Stress weakens the immune system, leaving individuals more susceptible to infections such as gum disease. A diet lacking essential vitamins and minerals can also negatively impact gum health. 

If you have any of these health conditions or take medications that may increase the risk of gum disease, it's essential to maintain good oral hygiene and visit your dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups. By taking preventative measures, you can reduce the risk of developing gum disease and keep your oral health in top shape. 


Smoking & Alcohol Use 


Both smoking and alcohol use contribute to gingivitis and periodontitis. Below we break down how each contributes. 



  • Reduced blood flow: Smoking restricts blood flow to the gums, which impairs the delivery of oxygen and essential nutrients to the gum tissues. This weakens the immune system's ability to fight off infections, including the bacteria that cause gum disease.

  • Suppressed immune response: Smoking weakens the immune system, making it less effective in combating infections. This makes smokers more susceptible to gum infections and reduces their ability to heal from gum disease.

  • Increased plaque and tartar formation: Smoking can lead to an overproduction of dental plaque, the sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth. Plaque buildup increases the risk of gum inflammation and infection. Additionally, tobacco use can contribute to the formation of calculus (tartar), a hardened form of plaque that can only be removed by professional dental cleaning.

  • Slowed healing: Smoking slows down the healing process, which can make it more difficult for the gums to repair and regenerate damaged tissues. This prolongs the duration and severity of gum disease. 


Alcohol use: 

  • Dehydration: Alcohol consumption can lead to dehydration, which reduces saliva production. Saliva plays an important role in rinsing away bacteria and neutralizing acids in the mouth. Reduced saliva flow can contribute to plaque buildup and increase the risk of gum disease.

  • Weakened immune system: Excessive and chronic alcohol consumption weakens the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections, including gum infections.

  • Nutritional deficiencies: Heavy alcohol use can result in poor nutrition and deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals. These nutritional deficiencies can compromise gum health and impair the body's ability to fight off gum infections and promote healing. 


Better Oral Health with Bonomo Periodontics 


Your oral health is important. And if you allow your gingivitis or periodontitis to go untreated then your quality of life will be damaged in the long run. 

When suffering from gum disease, proper oral treatment from a professional is necessary. If you are looking for a periodontist that always puts your needs first and delivers results you can count on, then Bonomo Periodontics is here for you. 

Click here to discover the difference Bonomo Periodontics can make in your life! Follow Bonomo Periodontics on Facebook for more information! Happy with the difference Bonomo Periodontics has made in your life? Leave us a five-star review here! 

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