Gingivitis vs Periodontitis: What's the difference? - Prof. Howard Gluckman

Gingivitis vs Periodontitis: What’s the difference?

Gum disease is a widespread condition. According to the FDI World Dental Federation (FDI), up to 50% of the global adult population suffers from periodontal disease, making it one of the world’s most common diseases.

When people discuss gum disease, two names automatically come to mind. These two names are Gingivitis and Periodontitis. 

In this blog, you will learn the difference between Gingivitis and Periodontitis. You will also learn how we treat them to restore health to your gums and the rest of your body.

What is Gingivitis?

Gingivitis is a disease that causes your gums to become red and swollen. 

When Gingivitis affects your gums, they tend to bleed easily. Gingivitis is a disease that only affects the gums. There is no damage or destruction to the underlying bone.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Bleeding on brushing and flossing
  • Bad Breath
  • Tenderness
  • Gum recession

Gingivitis is caused by an accumulation of plaque usually related to inadequate or incorrect brushing and flossing. The severity of the disease process can be affected by several issues like:

  • Stress
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Aging
  • Hormones
  • Pregnancy

Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease. It is easily addressed by professional treatments and good oral hygiene habits.

The removal of the plaque deposits will usually result in complete resolution of the disease and a return to health with no permanent damage to the gum or bone.

What is Periodontitis?

Periodontitis is an advanced form of Gingivitis.

It develops when Gingivitis is left untreated for long durations resulting in the maturation of the bacteria in the plaque. This bacteria becomes more aggressive and spreads below the gum line. Once there, they cannot be reached by routine brushing and flossing. 

Bacteria found in plaque produce toxins that irritate the gums. This irritation results in the body creating an inflammatory response. The inflammation causes the destruction of the bone and soft tissue supporting the tooth.

This destruction creates a pocket between the gum and the tooth. The longer the disease process continues, the deeper the pocket gets.

Failure to treat the disease results in progressive loss of bone. This bone loss eventually leads to teeth loosening and tooth loss. 

Common types of Periodontitis

Necrotising Periodontal Disease

Example of gums affected by necrotising periodontitis. Image Source: Dr Jonathan Du Toit

This is an acute and rapid onset infection of the gums that results in the death of the bone, ligament and gum tissues surrounding the tooth. 

The alveolar bone is the thick ridge of bone that holds the roots of your teeth. The periodontal ligament ( PDL) is the ligament that attaches the tooth to the bone. 

Necrotising periodontal disease appears as extremely red and swollen gums that bleed on gentle touch. The bleeding is profuse and occasionally difficult to stop. Additionally, the triangular gum between the teeth, called the papilla, are often destroyed, leaving large gaps between the teeth. 

Other symptoms include pain, bad breath and a metallic taste in the mouth. People suffering from stress, poor diet, malnutrition, immunosuppression, and systemic conditions like HIV commonly show the symptoms of this type of Periodontitis.

Chronic Periodontitis

This type is the most commonly occurring form of Periodontitis. Chronic Periodontitis causes pocket formation, bone destruction and recession of the gum line. Additionally, it affects adults though it can occur at any age.

Chronic Periodontitis causes bone loss and inflammation within the supporting tissues of the teeth. Additionally, bone loss caused by Chronic Periodontitis is typically slow but may have periods of rapid progression.

Aggressive Periodontitis

This type of Periodontitis is known to affect otherwise clinically healthy individuals. Its most notable symptom is rapid tooth loss due to bone loss.

How are Gingivitis and Periodontitis Treated?


If you have persistent symptoms, we can assist you in treating Gingivitis through scaling.

Scaling (also known as deep cleaning) removes the excess plaque and tartar build-up that promotes the development of Gingivitis. This cleaning, combined with good oral hygiene habits, helps resolve Gingivitis. 

Furthermore we can address other factors that negatively impact your oral health, like poorly fitted crowns or bridges during scaling. These factors tend to accommodate the build-up of plaque and tartar and make it difficult to properly clean teeth.


In the case of Periodontitis, the goal of each treatment is to thoroughly clean the pockets around your teeth and prevent damage to the bone surrounding them. 

We can use scaling and root planing to address the problem in less severe periodontitis cases. These non-surgical treatments enable us to remove tartar and bacteria from your teeth and beneath the gums. Moreover, through root planing, we can ensure the roots of your teeth are free from bacteria infection that causes inflammation.

If your case is more severe, we can surgically address the Periodontitis through different treatments that include:

  • Guided bone tissue regeneration
  • Bone grafting
  • Soft tissue grafts
  • Flap surgery

Dr Gluckman and the team have extensive experience treating Gingivitis and Periodontitis, helping patients restore their confidence in their oral health.

Book your appointment with Dr Gluckman today.

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