Say No to Ginger Vitis and her friend Perry O’

Barbara Tritz
· October 9, 2016 ·

10 minutes

Ginger Vitis and Perry O’ are not friends to invite to your next party, and- even worse!- unfortunately, they’re having their own shindig under your gums!  Ginger and Perry have to go!

I need to write a children’s book with these two characters as villains.  Don’t they sound ominous?  Yes, they are quite dastardly.  I rather picture them similar to Natasha and Boris from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (for those old enough to remember.)

Natasha and Boris or Ginger and Perry

Natasha and Boris or Ginger and Perry

Natasha and Boris or Ginger and Perry

Let’s review what gingivitis and periodontitis infections really are, and why they matter to your entire body!
I know I’ve written about gingivitis before but with new research out on how bad it really is for you and your health, thought I’d add an update.  Grab your coffee, I don’t normally write so much but this time there’s lots to address so please, sit down, relax and read on!

Gingivitis ~ What the heck is it and how’s it different from periodontitis?


Gum Infection = Gingivitis

Gingivitis is an infection exclusively in the gum tissue.  It is, for the most part, reversible.  It’s mainly caused by bacterial/fungal biofilm living at and under your gumline (from, as we say in the biz, “poor oral hygiene”).  Most of the bacteria in our mouth and body are there to help us, but there are a handful that are destructive.  Gingivitis does not hurt, so most folks ignore it.  Patients often say “oh, my gums always bleed.”  Boy, if only they heard the alarm bells ringing in my head when I see gingivitis and hear that!  
The commercials on television make gingivitis seem benign, and even many dental professionals may blow it off as un-important, non-serious.  They all couldn’t be further from the truth.  Gingivitis is actually the gatekeeper to future jawbone loss and gum disease infections (periodontal disease).  In addition to that, patients with gingivitis pockets (the area around the necks of the teeth) of only three millimeters (one to three millimeters is considered “okay” by dental professionals) have an elevated risk of vascular disease.  Gingivitis causes a low grade inflammatory response in the gum tissues.  Many of the bad bacteria found in periodontitis are also found in gingivitis.  These same bad bacteria also inhabit your nose and sinuses and can contribute to pneumoniasinus infections and ear infections.  Not so benign?!

Note red rolled gums, swollen tissue between the teeth, and bleeding

Note red rolled gums, swollen tissue between the teeth, and bleeding

Gingivitis differs from periodontitis- perio- in that periodontitis infects and liquefies the bone.  It is a chronic inflammatory disease.  The bone literally dissolves, which is why tooth loss can occur.  The bacteria that cause periodontal disease trigger your body’s immune system to produce enzymes and it’s these enzymes that cause your jawbone to dissolve.  It’s your body’s way of trying to protect you from the bacteria.
A bacteria named Porphyromonas gingivalis (P.g. for short) is one of the baddest of bad guys.  P.g. is present in gingivitis as well as periodontal disease – he’s what’s termed a Keystone Pathogen.  He opens the door for other bad guys to come flooding into your body, not just in your mouth.  He even encourages the good bacteria to turn bad – he hijacks white blood cells and turns them into bacterial transport cars!  That should cause you pause!

How Gingivitis becomes Periodontitis

Progression from Gingivitis to Periodontitis

Progression from Gingivitis to Periodontitis

This inflammation in the gums acts as a switch, igniting your DNA and causing the deeper, more chronic periodontitis infection to take off like a rocket if there are enough bad bacteria  AND (the key here) if you are genetically susceptible. When your genes say your immune system is more sensitive to the bacteria then we call that a “hyper-responder.”

A slight tangent: Our genetic profile – our unique DNA – is the root of all chronic diseases within each of us.  Your DNA influences your susceptibility.  With the advancements made in gene testing, we can now peer into our future and literally change our history!  What incredible times we live in!!  We no longer need to guess why disease is there, we can look at our genetics and be proactive.  You can have a low genetic risk level and still get periodontal disease by overriding your immune system with activities such as smoking cigarettes or cannabis, poor oral hygiene, diabetes, and high biofilm bacterial/ fungal loads to name but a few.
(So if your genetic markers don’t point directly to periodontal disease susceptibility, you still can’t be lazy.)

 Ideally, you learn your genetic tendencies  now, before you have an infection or bone loss, while you are healthy.  Folks that are genetically positive are what are termed “hyper-responders” and are much more sensitive to the bad pathogens.  Dentistry can now test for this susceptibility.  The test we use is called Celsus One and is by Oral DNA.  Know now and be proactive! You only need to do this test once- your genes won’t change.  Then you’ll know if you are genetically susceptible to the gum disease bacteria.

Genetic testing may be even more valuable for your children.  Know what their risk levels are for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and periodontal disease while they’re still young.  You can guide their lifestyles to help them make wise choices and live longer healthy lives.  With the costs of health care going up, prevention is vital!

Back to specifically periodontitis: With the infection already starting in your gums, the pathogenic bacteria reproduce in a matter of hours.  Even if you had gum therapy yesterday, but didn’t do your homecare last night, the bacterial population is heading back up to pre-therapy levels within three to seven days.  Fighting this battle is a daily thing.

I’ve talked before about the need for professional, advanced hygiene care (Why Do My Gums Need Therapy).  If you have plaque and tartar buildup, you’re just barely treading water, and you’ll be sinking fast if all you’re doing is brushing your teeth. (Read my post about cleaning in-between your teeth while you’re at it.) Your fabulous dental hygienist is expertly trained to get that plaque/tartar out from under your gum-line.  That starts the healing process – getting your mouth primed for recovery.   However, some of the bad gum disease pathogens are immune to deep scaling and gum therapy.
Work with your dental team, and then do. your. homework.
Learn what’s going on in your mouth. Test, Treat and Re-test.  Know with whom and with what you are dealing.  Creating customized homecare instructions that address your individual situation, and knowing your risk factors (I.E. your genetic risk levels), you can take control of your oral and systemic health.  When things like stress, nutrition imbalances, or kissing a new partner who has periodontal disease come into your life, you have a better chance of maintaining your dental health.

 Prevention! Need to Test the Bacteria Levels

Perio pathogen testing by Oral DNA –

Test, Treat and Retest

Test, Treat and Retest

 Any dental office can and should offer to do this.  Salivary testing gives us a more definitive look at the bacteria – both variety and quantity.  I love knowing what’s there, especially BEFORE infection and damage occurs.  Then we can be especially proactive.  I’d love if everyone took this test, because it really is extremely vital knowledge.  I’ve come across information that says patients with exceptional homecare can mask active inflammation occurring below the surface. You can still have a high bacterial levels and if you are a hyper-responder the rest of your body is also hypersensitive to the bacteria. Inflammation can then occur throughout your entire body ( for example: think Rheumatoid arthritis).  Just because we can’t detect inflammation with our current visual diagnostics does not mean it’s not there.  We need to “up” our tools, so I offer this test to all my patients, especially now that I understand the genetic connection to be so vital.  I also love that it tells us which antibiotics will address these pathogens.  I suggest antibiotics sparingly and judiciously, but I like having this option if/when needed.  The standard, typical antibiotic regimes for treating periodontal disease only work in killing the bacteria 30% of the time, so knowing exactly what pathogens you have and customizing the proper antibiotics is vital to eradicating the infection.  Still, antibiotics alone can not work against this disease, it can not penetrate the biofilm.  After treatment it is vital to re-test and be totally sure you’ve succeeded.  If the test for pathogens is still positive then you go back to the drawing board.  As you’ll see below, you cannot ignore this disease- it will resurface within the body and can be destructive.  Destroy it.  If you do not have the pathogen, you do not have the disease.  Plain and simple.

Dr. Dan Sindelar, past president of the American  Academy of Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH) summed it up:

Cortisol and stress play a key role
**Threshold: “Pathogen Load Threshold”- The concentration above which patients are generally at increased risk of attachment loss/disease progression.

The Oral -Systemic Link  –  Gum Disease’s Long Reach Beyond the Mouth: Here’s why Ginger and Perry should not be invited to any more parties!

When I first started looking at what effect oral infections had on the rest of the body, my list had eight oral-systemic health connections.  Now, 25 years later, that list is exploding with amazing new research almost monthly.  Poor oral health is linked to some very serious medical conditions.  The mouth is the window to your body.  Time to close that window!  Hold on to your hats and take a look!  

These are strong connections, but much research still needs to be done.  This is all truly cutting edge information and it’s exciting to be in on the ground floor.

It really is time to attack oral diseases like your life depends on it, because as you can see – it does!  That bloody cleaning is a sign, a giant sign with neon lights flashing, yelling at you that things are unhealthy, and it’s really only the tip of the iceberg.  Dentistry must work with the rest of your medical team, and be an integral part of your wellness plan.  Medicine now recognizes periodontal disease as a medical disease, rather than just a tooth issue.  It’s time to beat these infection-causing pathogens and get the proper tools to help you help yourself  have a truly healthy mouth – which leads to a healthy body!  Never, ever ignore gingivitis!  Send Perry O’ and Ginger Vitis packing! 

For more information on how I attack and go to war against periodontal disease and gingivitis read my blog posts and other articles:

It’s a Small, Small, Extra Small World 

My Second Orkos Award 

My Second Orkos Award

Meet the Bugs
Beat the Bugs
Nutritious Nuggets
Perio Protect Trays – read about what hydrogen peroxide can do to heal your gums!
Mouth Breathing and gum disease – you’ll never beat gum disease if you mouth breath. 
I have lots more information but these posts/articles sum up my treatments well.

The Money, Honey

You are ultimately in charge of your own health, so let’s talk about the cost of all this.  Insurance- yes, dentistry is insurance driven.  For so many folks, if insurance doesn’t cover it, they won’t do it.  Hmm, I think, “penny wise/pound foolish”.  Treating dental disease is really a long term investment in yourself, your total body health and well being, as well as your family’s health (remember, it’s contagious!!).  Look at that list above again.  All those diseases and the treatment for them costs so much more than gum therapy in terms of dollars, stress, heartbreak and, sadly, possible early mortality.  So, yes, it does cost money and yes, it comes out of your pocket.  But, as with all health issues, look at the insurance deductible and rethink prevention.  In the long run, you’ll be money ahead.  The most precious thing you own is your health, and all the money in the world can’t buy it back for you later.  Invest wisely.  Be healthy. and of course, keep smiling!  Remember, Ginger and Perry aren’t your friends.
Thank you all for reading this blog.  I am so excited to report we are closing in on almost 149,000 page views.   I’m honored and so pleased to have you stop by!

Hugs to all of you,
Barbara Tritz RDH, BS

Periodontal Therapist

Specialist in Myofunctional Therapy

Hello, I'm Barbara Tritz

Unveiling the Stories Behind Dental Hygiene

Loving science, especially biology, from an early age, Barbara is a registered dental hygienist, certified biological hygienist, and orofacial myofunctional therapist. In 2019, she received the Hu-Friedy/ADHA Master Clinician Award from the American Dental Hygienist Association.

Share your thoughts below!


  1. Dean Baker


    Thanks for sharing such an amazing and informative post. Really enjoyed reading it. 🙂

  2. Barbara Tritz

    Thanks Kim! Much appreciate your comment!

  3. Gayathiri

    Nice Article for these post.
    What should I do if I have bad breath?
    How often should I brush and floss?
    How can I tell if I have gingivitis or periodontitis (gum disease)?
    Why is it important to use dental floss?

  4. Barbara Tritz

    Hi Gayathiri,
    Thank you for your kind comment! and what great questions you have!!
    I have blog posts that'll go more in depth to answer all your questions so when you get a chance, type in bad breath or gingivitis etc into the search box and that'll take you to all my many posts that'll answer your questions
    Here's the short answers:
    #1. Bad breath- clean your tongue with a tongue sweeper- the back of the tongue is where most of the bacteria reside. That said, bad breath could also be from tooth decay, gum disease, or sinus infections, systemic diseases and mouth breathing so you have to find the cause to effect a cure.
    32. Brush twice daily It takes the biofilm mere minutes to start repopulating and 12 hours to organize so cleaning them thoroughly every 12 hours is a great plan.
    33. A dental hygienist is your best source to know if you have a gum infection. If you see blood on your floss or toothbrush, you probably do though. Having a professional look, take xrays and get a diagnosis – either it's healthy or it's not.Then treat it. I did a blog post on what a healthy mouth looks like.
    #4. Floss- why floss?! Floss, when done correctly removes the biofilm from the sides of the teeth. Toothbrushes only clean 60% of the tooth, that leaves 20% on either side of the tooth that still have bacteria and pathogens hanging out on your tooth and under the gum line. You have to rub the biofilm off – it's sticky and wants to live there in between and under the gumline. It's the perfect place for pathogen- moist, warm, dark, plenty of free food. It makes a sticky coating and protects itself from any swishing or oil puling efforts. Rubbing it off is really the best way to get it off.
    Again, my 68 other blog posts go into info about oral disease, prevention and much more. Take a look! Let me know what you think.

  5. deeksha

    your blog is different and i need to know about the simple tips to keep mouth fresh as well as clean, can you tell me about that.

  6. Barbara Tritz

    Hi Deeksha,
    So glad you stopped by and read the post. I have 68 other blog posts on tips, techniques and suggestions to help make your mouth healthy. If you have a particular question, I'm happy to answer it. You can always use the search box on the upper right – type in homecare or plaque or tooth paste- – whatever your interests and see what I've written on these topics. I have many, many posts on tips and tools, as well as other ideas for helping make your mouth fresh and clean. Let me know what you think after you've read some more.

  7. Killiaan Finne

    Hello Barbara Tritz
    Thanks for such a helpful informative information to share and to aware people about oral health.

  8. Barbara Tritz

    Thank you Killiaan,
    So appreciate your kind words! Hope you learned some new things!

  9. Swethapriya

    i have really enjoyed with this blogs thanks a lot to gain more. It provides an tips for healthy teeth with dental visits easily.

  10. Anonymous

    Diabetes is not an "activity" (see above).


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