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How can I tell if I have gingivitis or periodontitis (gum disease)?

gingivitis or periodontitis picture

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If there have been times when you have brushed and you have seen blood in your sink, this is probably a sign that you may have gum disease. Better to keep an eye on this because gum disease can be indicators of health risks like heart disease, diabetes, pneumonia, and even cancer. If you spot it early, you can treat it faster and better. 

Difference between Gingivitis and periodontitis

  • Gingivitis is a fancy medical term for the inflammation of gums that usually leads to sensitivity and bleeding. The progression of this very swelling is called periodontitis, this is when it becomes a disease. But gingivitis doesn’t need to always lead to periodontitis.
  • Initially, what happens is that there will be plaque build up in the gums. It is bacteria that causes inflammation in the gums leading to them bleeding easily, something you can notice while brushing. The teeth do not go through any changes at this juncture because it is only the gums that are irritated. You will not find any tissue damage either.
  • If you leave your gums the way they are once you develop gingivitis, there is a chance it might progress into periodontitis. When this happens, the connectivity between the tooth and the gums becomes loose, the bone pulls away from the gums and pockets are formed. Once these pockets begin to form, there will be space between your gums and your teeth which will inevitably collect the remainder or debris of what you eat. There is a huge chance it might lead to infection.
  • The natural reaction of the body to something like this is that the immune system kicks in and tries to fight the bacteria. Meanwhile, the plaque continues to spread and it will grow at the bottom of the gum line.
  • The issue with the immune system involving is that it tries to produce enzymes that fight such infections while the bacteria that plaque contains produces toxins. These two go at each other and begin showing effects on the connecting tissue that keeps your teeth in place.
  • This entire process results in the before mentioned pockets getting wider and the bone and gum tissues getting destroyed. Teeth will start becoming loose as a result of this and you will start losing teeth as the condition worsens.

Known causes of gingivitis and periodontitis:

  • gingivitis or periodontitis picture 2The villain is plaque. It is the root cause of gum disease in adults.
  • Your hormones can also have a role to play in developing gum disease. Some changes occur in hormones during times like mensuration, menopause, and pregnancy as well wherein your gums end up becoming quite sensitive. This gives way for gingivitis to make its way.
  • Patients suffering from HIV and cancer also are susceptible to gum disease because the illness interferes with their immune systems. Diabetes is one other condition that can be included in this list because the body cannot control blood sugar levels leading to the risk of getting infections easily and frequently. Gum disease and cavities are no exceptions.
  • Some types of medication can also affect. Some medicines are known to reduce the secretion of saliva and that could be a reason because saliva protects the gums and the teeth. There are other kinds of medications that cause abnormality in the way gum tissue grows as well.
  • Needless to say, having bad habits does not help the situation. Smokers need to be aware because this particular habit leads to difficulty in gum tissue repairing itself.
  • People who do not maintain oral hygiene also could end up having gum disease. Some people do not regularly brush or floss and this makes it easy for gingivitis to develop.
  • Unfortunately, family history has to be considered as well. If your parents or grandparents have a strong history of developing gum disease, it could follow you too.

Symptoms

Now that you know what you know, here are some symptoms to look out for:

  • Initial signs you need to be observant about is red and swollen gums, also called the inflammation of gums. There will be an obvious tenderness and sponginess to the way your gums will become and they will bleed very easily.
  • Once plaque starts to form, the key indicator will be a bad breath. The toxins that the bacteria releases will lead to a foul smell that comes from your mouth. This is also a symptom of you having a more serious issue.
  • There are instances where the gums shrink as well. Not very obvious but it is observable, they will look smaller. This is a sign that your bone is breaking down and the separation between your tooth and gums is happening. The process of these pockets forming and your teeth separating is called receding gums.
  • There will be immense sensitivity in the teeth as well. Anything cold or hot will give you a feeling of being electrocuted in the mouth. This is a sign as well because your teeth that have pulled away have now become exposed.
  • Teeth begin to shift and move upon touch. You will notice changes in your smile/look. Since the teeth are no longer being held in place due to gum disease, each time you bite into something, there is a chance your teeth will move.

Get treated!

The infection can be controlled since this is bacteria at play, there exist medication to try and control the progression of gingivitis into periodontitis. And say it has come to the latter, there are many cosmetic dental services you could get done to rectify or restore your teeth.

  • Some treatments your dentist will suggest for this condition include deep cleaning that will focus carefully cleaning not only above but also beneath the gum line with the help of special instruments.
  • Tartar will be scraped off from both sides of the gum line in a process called scaling.
  • You might need the roots of each tooth to be smoothened out as well using a technique called root planing. This could further allow your gums to attach themselves to the tooth again.
  • All of this might require multiple visits to the dentist, you have to be patient.

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Written by Isreal Olabanji DST RN

Israel is a dental nurse with 7 years of experience in assisting dentists with all sorts of dental issues. Our only goal here is to enlighten you in every aspect of health and dental care. Every content released focused on helping you achieve this goal.

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