Gingivitis and Periodontitis: One and The Same?

There are a few ways in which gum conditions are described. Terms like gum disease, gingivitis, and periodontitis are often considered one and the same. By the sounds of it, they may seem interchangeable. They’re not. Each term describes an oral infection that has affected the soft tissue around teeth. It helps to know the difference between gingivitis and periodontitis so treatment can be sought as early as possible.


We diagnose gingivitis when the gums around one or more teeth are inflamed. This early infectious condition occurs when plaque, a sticky film of saliva, debris, and bacteria, accumulates around teeth. Plaque is soft and sticky. It is also invisible, which means it can be difficult to detect. If plaque stays in place for some time, it can harden into what we call calculus. Patients know this as tartar. Even in the hardened state, this substance harbors bacteria that degrade the gums. Irritated gums separate from teeth in what we call recession. Receding gums are more susceptible to further inflammation and harbor bacteria beneath the gum line. If not treated, gingivitis turns in to periodontitis.

Signs of gingivitis include:

  • Bad breath
  • Noticeable swelling or redness
  • An itchy sensation around a tooth or teeth
  • Visible gum recession (teeth look longer)
  • Gums bleed when brushing or flossing
  • Tenderness in the gums


As a more advanced stage of infection, periodontitis is hard to miss. Pockets form around the teeth with swelling and cause the gums to pull away from the tooth. Gum recession may become severe enough to see the upper part of the tooth root. The risk with periodontitis is that bacteria are embedded in the deeper layers of the mouth, where connective tissue can be degraded by inflammation and infection. This can lead to bone and tooth loss.

Treat Gum Disease Early

Gingivitis and periodontitis are both forms of gum disease. One is an early stage and the other is a later stage. Gum disease is treatable in its early stages and can be controlled with proper treatment in its more advanced stages. Treatments exist to address all stages of gum disease and may include deep cleaning, tooth scaling to remove tartar and plaque from root structure, and laser gum treatment.

Patients visit our NYC office because they know we will prioritize their comfort. As a dental anesthesiologist, Dr. Siegelman understands the immense value of sedation in various areas of dentistry. To learn more about treatment for gingivitis or periodontitis, call (212) 974-8737.

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