Periodontist FAQs: What Is Gingivitis and Periodontitis?

Periodontist The Woodlands, TX

A periodontist can treat various stages of gum disease, from gingivitis to periodontitis. Learning the answers to these common questions about gum disease can help patients understand when periodontal care is needed to achieve good oral and general health. 

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is a mild and reversible form of gum disease that leads to swelling, redness, and bleeding of the gingiva or gum line at the base of the teeth. Early treatment can prevent gingivitis from becoming a severe infection leading to tooth loss. 

What causes gingivitis?

Gingivitis occurs when bacteria in the mouth form a sticky film of plaque that attaches to the gum line, causing an infection. Common causes of gingivitis include:

  • Poor oral hygiene
  • Smoking and vaping
  • Hormonal fluctuations
  • Drugs and medications that weaken the immune system
  • Dry mouth

Is gingivitis avoidable?

Daily brushing and flossing and professional in-office dental cleanings twice per year can prevent and treat gingivitis. In addition, a periodontist may recommend more frequent professional dental cleanings for patients who are susceptible to gum disease. 

How common is gingivitis?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, half of the adult population in the United States has gingivitis. Gingivitis is more common among men, although anyone can have it.  

How is gingivitis treated?

A periodontist may use a handheld or ultrasonic device to remove plaque and tartar below the gum line. This treatment usually accompanies root planing that smooths teeth surfaces below the gum line to prevent plaque and tartar from sticking to them.

How quickly does gingivitis progress?

Untreated gingivitis can progress to advanced gum disease within a few weeks. As a result, aggressive treatment options are sometimes necessary to prevent the spread of infection. 

What is periodontitis?

Periodontitis is non-reversible and can cause teeth to loosen or fall out by compromising the supportive bone and connective tissue. Untreated periodontitis can also have other health consequences if oral bacteria enter the bloodstream, causing inflammation.  

What are the symptoms of periodontitis?

Pain, swelling, redness, bad breath, or loose teeth are signs of periodontal disease. A periodontist can take X-rays and use a special probe to look for telltale pocket formations between the teeth and the gumline indicative of bone loss from periodontitis.

What are periodontitis treatment options?

Scaling and root planing can remove infections and help teeth reattach to the gums. Surgery can remove deep deposits of plaque and tartar and reduce pockets that can collect bacteria. Severe conditions may require grafting to replace lost tissue and bone.

Does periodontitis always lead to tooth loss?

It is possible to avoid tooth loss by restoring gum health. Still, treatment may not prevent this outcome, especially if an infection is extensive or a patient does not maintain good oral hygiene to prevent recurring infections.

How can patients prevent recurring periodontitis?

Patients with compromised immunity or systemic illnesses are susceptible to recurring periodontitis; however, the condition is often preventable. Consistent home care, in-office deep cleanings, and a healthy diet can reduce the chance of future infections.


Although gingivitis is common, it is frequently reversible with early detection and good oral hygiene habits. A periodontist can answer questions about how to avoid and treat periodontitis and its consequences.

Request an appointment here: or call Montgomery County Periodontal Associates at (281) 404-7548 for an appointment in our The Woodlands office.

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