Periodontitis and Gingivitis: Similarities

Periodontitis and gingivitis are both conditions relating to the gums.
They are both the result of a build-up of bacteria and this build-up is a result of sub-optimal oral hygiene. We say sub-optimal rather than poor because the conditions are so common, in fact, most UK adults have gum problems to some extent. It is hard to prevent the build-up of bacteria over time even with best efforts to brush twice a day, floss and rinse with mouthwash.
While few children or young adults suffer from either gingivitis or periodontitis, many adults over the age of 40 do present with symptoms. For both conditions, it is true to say that the older you are, the more likely you are to have either one condition or the other (if not both).
The fact that both are so common – and we will come to whether they are equally common – can lead to a false sense of security.
If most UK adults have some degree of gum complaint, and gingivitis and periodontitis are gum complaints, then they can’t be that bad, can they? Sadly, safety in numbers might provide a little reassurance but it doesn’t actually help fight the by-products of the conditions.

Gingivitis – The First Stage

In the vast majority of cases, gingivitis is caused by plaque build-up and so we will focus on that cause here.
Over time, plaque builds up in areas where the teeth and gums have not been sufficiently cleaned and it is the by-products of the bacteria in this plaque, such as degradative enzymes and toxins, that ultimately leads to gingivitis.
The growing complexity of the bacterial colonies and the toxins and enzymes produced lead to inflammation of the gums and then, potentially, the other unpleasant side effects of gingivitis.

Periodontitis – The Real Cause For Concern

Periodontitis is always preceded by gingivitis but gingivitis does not always lead to periodontitis.
Periodontitis is gum disease and, as that implies, is a lot more serious than gingivitis. Whereas the by-products of gingivitis are unpleasant the effects of periodontitis are far more significant.
All the problems of gingivitis will still be present – inflamed gums, bleeding on brushing and potentially eating and bad breath but other, more serious issues occur too.
With periodontitis, the inflammation continues to an extent whereby the bone of the jaw begins to be lost. This can lead to teeth becoming loose, the apparent lengthening of teeth through gum recession and ultimately teeth either falling out or extraction becoming necessary.
Periodontitis has also been linked to an increased likelihood of other conditions – this through numerous studies and highlighted on the NHS website. Conditions include heart disease and diabetes and also problems in pregnancy including pre-eclampsia, premature birth and low birth weight.


Periodontitis can come on aggressively, but equally, it can be far more gradual for others even if they have poor dental hygiene.
A person’s propensity towards suffering from periodontitis is thought to be affected by genetics and lifestyle choices not least their diet and whether or not they drink alcohol or smoke.
What is much harder, impossible to know even without seeing a professional, is whether what is a cause of concern to you is gingivitis, periodontitis or something else.

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