Ask the Dentist

Questions on Periodontal Disease


What is Periodontal Disease?
Commonly known as gum disease, periodontal disease is a family of related chronic inflammatory diseases that are all bacterial infections. The word “periodontal” means “around the tooth”. Each tooth is embedded in the gum, and attached by connective tissue to bone. Healthy gums are pale pink, smooth, and firm. Your bone and gum tissue should fit around your teeth like a turtleneck around your neck. Gum disease is caused by bacteria, which produce the sticky, soft, colorless substance known as plaque. As plaque accumulates and hardens into tartar on the surfaces of the teeth and in the crevices, bacteria releases toxins that irritate the gums, causing the gums to swell, turn red, and bleed easily. Plaque that is not removed can harden into tartar or calculus. This build-up of tartar worsens the condition, causing the gums to pull away from the teeth forming spaces called “pockets” around the teeth. Over time these pockets become deeper, providing a larger space for bacteria to live. These deeper pockets result in tissue and bone loss. Eventually, if too much bone is lost, the tooth or teeth will need to be extracted.

What are causes and risk factors for periodontal disease?
Specific species of bacteria must be present for periodontal disease to develop, but usually other risk factors must be present as well. In fact, 80% of people with gum disease have at least one other risk factor that makes them susceptible. Multiple factors are frequently involved. For example, stress, poor diet, and viral infections all play a role in periodontal disease. Aside from bacteria, other major risk factors are:

  • Genetics
  • Medical conditions
  • Smoking
  • Medications
  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress
Daily brushing and flossing can help prevent most periodontal conditions.

How can I prevent Periodontal Disease?
The best way to prevent gum disease is effective daily brushing and flossing as well as regular professional examinations and cleanings. Unfortunately, even with the most diligent home dental care, people still can develop some form of periodontal disease. Once this disease starts, professional intervention is necessary to prevent its progress.

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For any periodontal disease treatment related questions or to schedule an appointment, please call us at 703.503.5031 or email us, and our staff will happy to assist you.

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