a woman sitting in the dental exam chair speaking with her dentist in calgary about gum disease

What’s The Difference Between Gingivitis and Periodontitis?

The terms “gingivitis” and “periodontitis” are often used interchangeably, but they actually refer to two distinct forms of gum disease.

Here’s a comparison of these two conditions and some tips to help you prevent gum disease entirely.


Causes of Gum Disease

Gum disease is a bacterial infection that affects the gums and, if left untreated, the jawbone within which teeth are embedded. The main cause of gum disease is plaque buildup on the teeth and around the gum line. If this bacteria-ridden film isn’t removed by regular brushing and flossing, it can cause gum inflammation and gingivitis. If this condition is left untreated, it can lead to periodontitis.

Other factors that may increase your risk of developing gum disease include tobacco use, poor diet, stress and genetics.



Gingivitis is caused by excessive buildup of plaque on the teeth. It’s the mildest form of gum disease and is characterized by red, swollen gums that bleed easily when brushed. Additionally, an early sign of gingivitis can be itchy teeth and gums.

Periodontitis encompasses a range of more advanced gum diseases. At this stage, irreversible bone loss occurs around teeth and gum tissue begins to pull away from the teeth. This creates crevices where additional bacteria can build up and cause an infection. Symptoms of periodontitis include:

  • Red, swollen or bleeding gums
  • Pain when chewing
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Loose or sensitive teeth
  • Receding gums or gaps between the gums and teeth
  • Sores inside the mouth



Gingivitis can usually be warded off with a professional dental cleaning and practicing consistent good oral hygiene. In more severe cases, a non-surgical procedure called tooth scaling and root planing may be necessary to remove plaque from below the gum line.

When periodontitis advances sufficiently, surgical treatment will likely be required to avoid lasting damage and possible tooth loss. Antibiotics will also be necessary to control and eliminate the infection.



The most effective way to prevent gum disease is to adopt a good oral hygiene routine. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily and visiting your dentist twice a year. Additionally, eating a healthy diet and avoiding tobacco use can significantly reduce your risk of developing gum disease.

At-home teeth care and regular professional dental cleanings can also help prevent gingivitis from becoming periodontitis. If you notice that your gums bleed regularly, report this symptom to your dentist who’s trained to spot early signs of gum disease.


Visit Our Dental Clinic In Red Deer!

At Parkland Mall Dental Centre, we offer a range of family dentistry services, from teeth cleaning to gum disease treatment. For more information or to schedule an appointment at our Red Deer clinic, contact us today.