Dr. Michael Handler

How to Recognize Gingivitis and Other Gum Diseases

By Dr. Michael Handler

There are so many dental terms and conditions that it can easily be confusing to know the difference. Periodontal or gum diseases are a good example because there are several different categories. Each has pretty distinctive signs and symptoms, however. Here’s how to recognize gingivitis and other forms of gum disease. 


Gingivitis is a type of inflammation caused by plaque building up on your teeth and in the small spaces between them. This happens when your oral hygiene methods aren’t enough to get the teeth completely clean. Each day that you don’t brush or floss enough, a small amount of residue stays behind on the teeth, which gets sticky and causes the next batch of food residue to stick to it. 

Over time, the residue builds up and then hardens into plaque. The plaque contains bacteria, which multiply and cause the gums to become inflamed and irritated. While this is a mild condition that’s quickly resolved, if you don’t get treatment it will go on getting worse until the gums start to recede. 

Periodontal Disease

Full periodontal disease is a much more severe condition than gingivitis and is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. When untreated plaque spreads below the gum line, the toxins in the inflammation can cause the breakdown of the bones and tissues supporting your teeth. This causes the gums to pull away from the tooth base, creating pockets where even more bacteria can get in. 

There are seven categories of periodontal disease that can develop if your gingivitis remains untreated:

  • Chronic periodontitis, which is the most common form of the condition. This can happen at any age, but it’s most common in adults. Signs of this include fairly obvious gum pockets around the base of the teeth caused by gum recession and some redness, tenderness, and occasional bleeding. Provided it doesn’t get noticeably worse, this can continue bothering the patient for years. 

  • Aggressive periodontitis occurs when the symptoms listed above rapidly lead to the loss of gum tissue and the destruction of the bone. You’ll know this is happening if you notice sudden bad breath, develop swollen or puffy gums that bleed easily, or the gums start producing pus or blood after brushing and flossing. 

  • Periodontitis as a manifestation of systemic diseases is when you have gum disease in conjunction with heart disease, diabetes, respiratory or any of the conditions on this list:

  1. Diabetes mellitus

  2. Acquired neutropenia

  3. Leukemia

  4. Down syndrome

  5. Papillon–Lefèvre syndrome

  6. Chédiak–Higashi syndrome

  7. Langerhans cell disease (histiocytosis syndromes)

  8. Glycogen storage disease

  9. Chronic granulomatous disease

  10. Infantile genetic agranulocytosis

  11. Cohen syndrome

  12. Ehlers–Danlos syndrome (Types IV and VIII)

  13. Hypophosphatasia

  14. Crohn’s disease (inflammatory bowel disease)

  15. Marfan syndrome

  16. Klinefelter syndrome

  • Necrotizing periodontal disease happens when your gums get so infected that the tissues, ligaments and bones die, causing severe mouth sores to develop. This usually only happens to people with suppressed immune systems, such as those with conditions like HIV/Aids or malnutrition. 

Regardless of the type of periodontal disease, it’s possible for you to have it in a mild, moderate or advanced stage. Periodontitis can lead to the destruction of gums, mouth bones, tissue, and teeth, and is the number one cause of tooth loss in adults.

Recognizing Gum Disease

The most important early indicator of any type of gum disease is red, sore gum tissues. If they look inflamed, feel tender and swollen, or give off a pinkish tinge when you’re brushing and flossing, it’s the perfect time to get dental care and prevent it from becoming worse. Once your gums start to recede from your teeth, restoring your mouth to total health is a lot harder. 

Prevention Methods

You can usually prevent any form of gum inflammation by brushing and flossing twice daily, using a mouth rinse after sugary drinks, and getting frequent dental checkups and teeth cleanings. Patients who come in for regularly-scheduled root scaling and planing avoid the buildup of plaque and bacteria from the beginning. Combine these treatments with a good daily regimen to keep your gums strong, healthy, and free from inflammation. 

For more information on gingivitis and other gum diseases, or to schedule your check-up and teeth cleaning, please call our dentists in Scarborough at 416-267-4661, or click here to book online

Complete Oral Care

Do you ever feel nervous about dentist appointments? Rest assured: we cater to nervous and anxious patients in a gentle and considerate manner. Call us now to schedule a free consultation!