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Periodontal (gum) disease

Gum disease, or periodontitis, is common in adults in the United States. Gum disease can range from a simple gum inflammation to a serious disease than can cause major damage and loss of the soft tissue and supporting bone that support your teeth. In worst cases, teeth are also lost.

What Causes Gum Disease?

Your mouth is home to all sorts of bacteria. That bacteria, along with saliva and other particles combine to form plaque. Plaque that is not removed by brushing and flossing can harden and turn into tartar. Once tartar forms, it takes a professional cleaning to remove it.

The longer tartar stays on the teeth, the greater the risk for much larger and more serious problems. When bacteria is not held in check, it can cause inflammation of the gums. This inflammation is called gingivitis. Gingivitis is noted by gums that are red, swollen, and can be made to bleed easily. It is one of the milder forms of gum disease, and it can be held in check and even reversed by regular brushing and flossing of the teeth. It can also be checked by a professional cleaning by your dentist.

Gingivitis does not involve the loss of bone, tissue, or teeth, unless it is allowed to progress to the next stage.


Periodontitis is the result when gingivitis is not properly treated. It literally means “inflammation around the tooth.” When one has periodontitis, gums can pull away from the teeth and create spaces, or pockets, and these will become filled with food particles and eventually infected. The immune system will fight the bacteria as it spreads below the gum line. These toxins, along with the body’s natural responses to these infections will in time start to erode the bone and the tissue that connects and holds teeth in their place.

If this condition is not treated, gums, bones, and tissue that support your teeth will be destroyed. As a last resort, in some cases the teeth will have to be removed.

Factors That Increase Your Risk of Gum Disease and Periodontitis

There are several behaviors and factors that put you more at risk for developing gum disease. Smoking cigarettes has been shown to be one of the most significant risk factors in developing gum disease. It can also lower the chances that the condition can be reversed.

People with diabetes are also at higher risk for gum disease and infections. People with HIV and AIDS have weakened immune systems, and as such are more susceptible to gum infections. The treatments for AIDS and HIV can also be a risk factor.

If you are in one of these risk groups, you know what you have to do to mitigate your risk. Smokers should quit to avoid lung, mouth and throat cancer as well as gum disease. Everyone should brush and floss at least twice daily to have the best possible dental health, and keep gum disease at bay.

If you have more questions or you are having gum disease, it is important that you contact the right dentist. Fortunately, help is here. Please feel free to get in touch with Leesburg Family Dental by giving us a call at (571) 577-8457.

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