As you learn about gum disease, you will find that a variety of terms which seem interchangeable (yet also seem slightly different) can cause confusion. To ensure you make excellent progress with your education, rather than feeling turned around, we offer simple clarification regarding gingivitis and other common terms. When you are able to clearly understand how periodontal problems unfold, you will feel more prepared to avoid them altogether, so your smile remains healthy.
Questions and Answers
Question: What is gingivitis? Is this just another term for gum disease?
Answer: Gingivitis is simply the first phase of the disease of your gingival (or gum) tissues. When it occurs, we can provide treatment to remove the culprit (plaque and tartar), so you avoid infection and long-term issues.
Question: How can I tell if I have gingivitis? Do I just need to schedule care with you if my gums look swollen?
Answer: If your gums appear swollen, bright red, purple, if they bleed, if they hurt, or if other abnormalities present themselves, contact us immediately. However, we suggest you schedule twice annual checkups and cleanings with us, so we can catch the earliest sign of gingivitis before it advances. Keep in mind that disease may occur long before you notice symptoms.
Question: So, then if gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease, what is periodontitis?
Answer: This is what develops when gum disease is given time to progress further. Periodontitis is advanced gum disease, which affects not only your gums but also other supportive tissues like ligaments.