Gingivitis is defined as inflammation of the gums. This is very common and may be caused by a variety of factors such as plaque on the teeth, crooked teeth, cavities, food injuries (i.e. tortilla chips puncturing your gums), etc. Certain medical issues may cause inflammation as well. Treatment for gingivitis includes removing the plaque, straightening the teeth, fixing the cavities, or allowing your body to heal on its own. Inflamed gums are the way your body tries to protect itself from infection. Gingivitis is limited only to inflammation in your gums and doesn’t involve bone loss. Untreated gingivitis may lead to periodontitis.
Periodontitis is defined as inflammation that causes the loss of bone and supporting structures surrounding the tooth. Known factors that contribute to periodontal disease are: dental plaque (primary cause), uncontrolled diabetes, smoking, heart disease, illnesses such as leukemia, medications that cause dry mouth, etc. There are many causes of periodontal disease and usually the factors that cause it are additive. This means if you smoke, have dental plaque and uncontrolled diabetes, you are more likely to develop periodontal disease than someone who just has dental plaque present.
There are different degrees of bone loss so periodontitis is diagnosed by a trained dental professional. Gingivitis that goes unchecked for months or even years may lead to bone loss due to the interaction between bacteria and your body. The loss of bone is irreversible and the goal of treatment is to arrest, or stop, the progression of periodontitis. Untreated periodontal disease may lead to tooth loss and is linked to other more serious diseases, like Alzheimer’s disease. Treatment for periodontal disease includes a deep cleaning and periodontal maintenance.