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Part of living a healthy lifestyle includes a focus on oral health. We only get one set of permanent teeth, so preventing cavities and gingivitis is critical.

Let’s examine both gingivitis and gum disease to clear up some common misconceptions in the process.

Gum Disease

According to the American Dental Association’s (ADA) Mouth Healthy site, gum disease is caused by the bacterial plaque that builds on the surface of your teeth and gums and occurs when the gum tissues around the teeth become infected. This infection of the gums is referred to as gingivitis. But because mouth or tooth pain isn’t always a symptom, it can be difficult to detect on your own.

Also known as periodontal disease, advanced gum disease can get worse if neglected, leading to periodontitis. This condition can make the gums recede, cause dentures to stop fitting and even loosen permanent teeth.


Gingivitis, on the other hand, is the very first stage of gum disease. Gums that are red, swollen and bleed easily are common indicators. If you have any of these symptoms, you should see a dentist. If caught early enough, gingivitis can sometimes be reversed through professional dental cleaning and good oral hygiene.

Shared Causes

No matter how mild or severe your condition is, plaque is generally the main cause. Letting it build up on the surface of your teeth allows it to travel, eventually irritating the gum tissue and causing it to swell. Therefore, not brushing and flossing daily – which prevents plaque buildup on your teeth – can indirectly lead to gingivitis and more severe cases of gum disease over time.

Other health issues can increase your risk of gum disease as well. These include:

  • Smoking/tobacco use
  • Diabetes
  • Medications for epilepsy, cancer and other conditions
  • Pregnancy
  • Crooked/misshapen teeth that are difficult to maintain

Popular Misconceptions

Some others resign themselves to the myth that gum disease will lead to tooth loss. It can, but only if left untreated. Stellar oral health habits, such as daily brushing and flossing, healthy eating and regular dental checkups, is the best way to prevent it from reaching this point.

So, is gingivitis a gum disease? Yes, all gingivitis is gum disease, but not all gum disease is gingivitis. Recognizing the symptoms and knowing proper treatment methods is the first step to curbing gingivitis’ progression, and building a strong foundation for maintaining good oral health.