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Gingivitis vs. Periodontitis: What You Need to Know

You’ve probably heard lots of talk from dental hygienists about gum disease and how you can work to prevent it, but how much do you really know about these conditions? Most people are aware that gum disease can wreak havoc on their oral health, but many aren’t clear on what these diseases actually are or how to be on the lookout for early signs that the health of their gums could be in jeopardy. If you’re going to actively take steps against the development of gum disease, you first need to have a thorough understanding of what it is and what signs you should be taking note of.

Gingivitis vs. Periodontitis

The two biggest buzz words when it comes to gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. However, these are two very different conditions. Gingivitis can be described as the swelling or inflammation of the gum area. There are many potential causes of gingivitis, but the most likely is a bacterial infection caused by the buildup of plaque along the gum line. On the other hand, periodontitis describes an extreme infection of the gums that can lead to losing teeth and other serious health complications. The most important takeaway from this is that while gingivitis can exist as a standalone issue, it is also the precursor to periodontitis. Not everyone who has gingivitis will develop periodontitis, but it will always be the first step towards a potentially dangerous gum disease.

Early Signs of Gingivitis

Now that you know the key differences between gingivitis and periodontitis, you can start to be more aware of the early warning signs and take appropriate action in preventing it from worsening into a serious infection.

Bleeding While Brushing

This is one of the earliest signs of gum disease, but it can often be overlooked. For example, something as simple as switching to a more stiff toothbrush can cause your gums to bleed. If you notice that your gums are bleeding on a regular basis with no changes to your brushing routine, you should consult with your dentist.

Receding or Swollen Gums

You should examine your gums regularly to observe any changes in appearance. If you notice that your gums appear to be exposing more of your teeth or seem more red than usual, this is an indication that your gums could be infected.

Bad Breath

Everyone experiences bad breath from time to time, but if you feel like your breath never smells fresh or you notice a constant unpleasant taste in your mouth, this is a sign of an influx in bad bacteria that can quickly lead to gum disease.


Understanding the different types of gum disease, as well as the early signs, can give you a leg up in protecting your gums against potentially harmful infections. You should talk to your dentist anytime you feel that your gums are showing even small indications of early disease.

Dr. Julie Liberman DDS of Great Neck Dental Care NY proudly serves patients of all ages in the Great Neck area, spanning New Hyde Park, Floral Park, Douglaston, Jericho, Roslyn, etc. Book your checkup today to determine your risk for gingivitis or periodontitis.

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