Periodontal/Gum Disease

Periodontal/Gum Disease in Northern Virginia

Don’t ignore your Gum Disease! Schedule an appointment with our dentist for evaluation. Remember, healthy gums – strong teeth!

What is Gum Disease?

Periodontal disease also referred to as Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that surround and support your teeth. It is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. Because gum disease is usually painless, you may not know you have it.

Causes of gum disease / periodontal disease

The primary cause of periodontal disease is recognized to be the buildup of plaque (bacteria) along the gum line. Eventually plaque harden and turn into tartar. The toxins created by plaque not only irritate the gums but can actually cause the gum fibers to deteriorate, ultimately leading to loose teeth or tooth loss. When bacteria is allowed to remain along the edge of the gums, periodontal pockets can also form, permitting even more bacteria to accumulate and cause severe damage. In its advanced stages, periodontal disease can even damage the bone that holds the teeth in their proper place, compromising the integrity of your smile.

In addition to poor oral hygiene and lack of regular professional cleaning, genetics and lifestyle choices can lead to the development of periodontal disease. The gum irritation caused by smoking can also contribute to the acquisition of this disease. If you have a medical condition or take a medication that affects the immune system, you may be at greater risk. For patients with uncontrolled diabetes, the treatment of periodontal disease can be more challenging.

Symptoms and warning signs of periodontal disease:

  • Red, swollen, bleeding gums, tender gums, gum discomfort, receding gums
  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste
  • Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
  • Teeth appear longer
  • Change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Pus between teeth or gums
  • Constant inflammation or infection of the mouth’s soft tissues
  • Bleeding while brushing or flossing
  • A sudden change in the fit of partial or full dentures
  • Painful chewing

Factors that increase the risk of developing gum disease:

Poor Oral Hygiene: Failure to maintain good oral hygiene habits, such as regular brushing and flossing of teeth to remove plaque and tartar from the teeth.

Tobacco Use and Smoking: Tobacco use is linked with many serious illnesses. However, most people do not know that using tobacco also puts you at risk of periodontal disease. It is a significant factor in the development as well as progression of periodontal disease. If you smoke long enough, the chances are very high that you will lose your teeth to gum disease.

Stress: Stress can make it even more difficult for the body to fight off serious infections as well as try to fight off periodontal disease.

Diabetes: Having diabetes puts you at a much higher risk for obtaining infections, which includes periodontal diseases. These infections can decrease the ability to process or utilize insulin in the body, which can cause diabetes to become more difficult to manage and the infection to become more severe than a non-diabetic.

Genetics: Some people may be up to six times more prone to developing periodontal disease, even with proper oral care. Genetic testing can be done before they even show signs of periodontal disease. Identifying and getting them into early interceptive treatment may help them with a lifetime of healthy teeth.

Pregnancy: Although brushing, flossing daily, regular exercise and a healthy diet are essential during life, there are definite times during a women’s life that additional care is necessary. During pregnancy, hormonal changes can affect numerous tissues, as well as gums. The gums will react more strongly to hormonal fluctuations making pregnant women more vulnerable to be at risk for periodontal disease.

Medications: Medications, including steroids, certain types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers, oral contraceptives and certain heart medications can influence a person’s oral health. It is important to inform your dentist of any and all medications that you are taking as well as any changes that have occurred in your overall wellbeing.


The early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. If you have gingivitis, your gums may become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by a professional cleaning at dental office, followed by daily brushing and flossing. Plaque and its toxin by-products irritate the gums, making them tender, inflamed, and likely to bleed.


Advanced gum disease is called periodontitis. As calculus and plaque continue to build up, the gums begin to recede from the teeth. Deeper pockets form between the gums and teeth and become filled with bacteria and pus. The gums become very irritated, inflamed, and bleed easily. It can lead to the loss of tissue and bone that support the teeth and it may become more severe over time. If it does, your teeth will feel loose and start moving around in your mouth. This is the most common form of periodontitis in adults but can occur at any age. It usually gets worse slowly, but there can be periods of rapid progression.

Aggressive periodontitis is a highly destructive form of periodontal disease that occurs in patients who are otherwise healthy. Common features include rapid loss of tissue and bone and may occur in some areas of the mouth, or in the entire mouth.

It is possible to have gum disease and have no warning signs. That is one reason why regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations are very important. Treatment methods depend upon the type of disease and how far the condition has progressed. Good dental care at home is essential to help keep periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring.

Remember: You don’t have to lose teeth to gum disease. Brush your teeth twice a day, clean between your teeth daily, eat a balanced diet, and schedule regular dental visits for a lifetime of healthy smiles!

Periodontal (Gum) Treatment

While many patients focus on the health and appearance of their teeth, the gums are equally important for maintaining a beautiful smile. Gum disease is a serious condition that, when left untreated, can ultimately lead to tooth loss. Our dentists at Impact Dental Care take time with each patient to teach the causes of gum disease and how you can prevent this condition from impacting your oral health.

When discovered in its earliest stages, periodontal disease can be much easier to treat. Scaling and root planning are common periodontal treatments that can remove the harmful plaque and tartar from the teeth. The gum line can then be cleaned to eliminate bacteria buildup. Antibiotics may be applied to the gum pockets to promote healing.

Before and after periodontal treatment, the dentist and hygienist will recommend proper home care and oral maintenance as well as prescribing prescription mouthwashes which serve to deter further bacteria colonization.

For more advanced stages of periodontal disease, oral surgery may be necessary to re-contour damaged bone and remove severe, toughened plaque. Oftentimes, the gum tissue will be repositioned after oral surgery for periodontal disease.

How do you prevent periodontal disease?

Regular brushing, flossing, rinsing and receiving professional teeth cleanings at least twice a year are the primary ways you can protect your teeth and gums from periodontal disease.

When combined with routine professional cleanings and oral exams, you can greatly minimize your risk of bacteria buildup.

For more information about periodontal disease treatment, or to schedule a consultation, please contact our office at 703-952-6600.