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Periodontitis or Gingivitis - Which Gum Disease Do You Have?

Updated on July 29, 2017

Do you notice streaks of blood everytime you brush your teeth? Are your gums swollen and tender when you touch them? Don't panic!

Those are signs that you have gum disease. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, gum disease affects 80 percent of Americans, young and old.

There are two main types of gum disease. These are gingivitis and periodontitis.

The most significant difference between these two is that gingivitis is reversible, which means it can be treated by practicing good oral hygiene while periodontitis is irreversible which means that if you now have the disease, it can only be controlled but will eventually lead to tooth loss, making it more difficult to eat the right kinds of food.


Periodontitis is infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth. It is caused mainly by bacterial plaque, that milky, cream-colored substance that forms on the teeth. If plaque is not removed, it will eventually turn into tartar which can only be removed with professional cleaning.

The roots of our teeth are deeply-rooted in our jawbones. As periodontitis progresses. bacteria in the gums continue to eat away the bones and other structures that support the teeth. The interior portion of the gums and bones eventually pulls away from the teeth and form small pockets where bacteria reside and grow.

If left untreated, these bacteria will destroy the underlying structures that anchor the teeth in place and will eventually lead to tooth loss. Periodontitis can also lead to stroke and heart attack.

Bacteria from the mouth can easily penetrate the connective tissues and blood vessels. The infected pockets that have formed around the teeth can also seriously affect a patient suffering from heart disease, diabetes, and various types of respiratory illnesses.

With gingivitis, on the other hand, your teeth are still strongly rooted in the bones and gums. It usually precedes periodontitis but it does not necessarily lead to the disease. You know you have gingivitis if you have red, swollen, tender and bleeding gums and bad breath.

Signs and symptoms of periodontitis

  • Bleeding gums when brushing teeth
  • Recurring tenderness and swelling of gums
  • Bad breath and metallic taste in the mouth
  • Receding gums leading to teeth appearing longer
  • Deep spaces between the gums and teeth resulting from the destruction of the attachments by collagenase, the enyme that destroys collagen.
  • Teeth starting to loosen from the gums

Types of periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is currently classified into eight types. Beginning from just two types in 1977, it has evolved into four in 1986, five in 1989 and eight in 1999. The 8 types are:

1. Gingival periodontitis:

  • Dental plaque induced periodontitis
  • Non-plaque induced periodontitis

2. Chronic periodontitis

3. Aggressive periodontitis

4. Periodontitis as a manifestation of a systemic disease

  • Includes diseases associated with genetic and hematological diseases

5. Necrotizing periodontal disease

  • Necrotizing ulcerative periodontitis
  • Necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis

6. Abscesses of the periodontium

  • Periodontal abscess
  • Gingival abscess
  • Pericoronal abscess

7. Periodontitis Associated with Endodontic Lesions

8. Developmental of Acquired Deformities and Conditions

In the last decade, gum disease has been linked to heart diseases, respiratory infections, severe osteoporosis, diabetes and low birth in newborn babies.

Experts discovered that the same infectious bacteria that are present in the mouth have also been found in the heart due to its easy access through the connective tissues and blood vessels.

© 2012 Zee Mercado


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