What’s the Difference in Gingivitis and Periodontitis?

So, what is the difference between gingivitis and periodontitis? Technically, there isn’t one. Gingivitis is the first — and most easily treatable — stage of gum disease, which is why recognizing this brewing problem is important.

To help in this regard, Drs. Colin Au and Jeff Yoshihara and our team pulled together a primer on periodontitis and how we can quickly and easily resolve the earliest stage — gingivitis.

Gum disease by the numbers

Nearly half of Americans over the age of 30 have some form of periodontitis and this number goes up to more than 70% by age 65. One of the major risks of gum disease is tooth loss and to give you an idea about the clear and present danger of this outcome, consider this: 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth and a whopping 40 million are missing all of their teeth. Going even further, 30% of adults between the ages of 65 and 74 have no natural teeth left.

While there are several drivers behind this widespread tooth loss, such as tooth decay, gum disease ranks at, or near, the top of the list.

The stages of gum disease

One of the best ways to avoid tooth loss is to recognize gum disease in its earlier stages, before irreparable damage is done. Gum disease occurs when bacteria get up under your gum line and begin to destroy your soft and hard tissues.

There are four stages of gum disease, which include:


This early stage of gum disease occurs when the bacteria first make their way under your gums, which leads to inflammation along your gum line. You may also notice that your gums are more sensitive and tender and they may bleed when you brush or floss.

Early periodontitis

As the bacteria go to work, your gums recede and small pockets form between your gums and your teeth, which house harmful bacteria.

Moderate periodontal disease

As periodontitis progresses, your gums become far more tender and may bleed more often. At this point, bacteria begin to destroy the connective tissues that hold your teeth in place, causing them to loosen.

Advanced gum disease

At this stage of gum disease, the bacteria have damaged most of the supporting tissues in your mouth and you’ll likely lose your teeth.

Treating gingivitis

If your gums are showing the early signs of gum disease, the good news is that this stage is highly treatable. In fact, in many cases, a simple professional cleaning with us here is enough to stop gingivitis in its tracks.

If we notice that pockets have already formed, we may turn to a root planing and scaling procedure, which we also call a deep cleaning.

The bottom line is that if you notice any sensitivity or inflammation in your gums, you should come see us sooner rather than later. Through our preventive dentistry services, we can preserve your oral health for years to come. 

To get started, contact our office in Mountain View, California, to set up your professional cleaning appointment.

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