You may have heard your dentist or periodontist talk about

gum disease

, especially if you are experiencing bleeding or

swollen gums in Birmingham, AL

. Even if you are now showing signs of gum disease, knowing the facts about this progressive condition can help with its prevention. We answered the 5 most frequently asked questions about gum disease in this month’s blog post.

1. What is gum disease?

Gum, or periodontal, disease is a progressive condition that affects the gums. Characterized by inflammation,

gum disease

begins when plaque and tartar buildup cause the gums to become infected. This can lead to bleeding,

swollen gums in Birmingham, AL

, and gum recession that can loosen the teeth. Advanced periodontitis is characterized by chronic bad breath, severely diseased gums, and tooth loss. Recent studies have also shown a link between

gum disease

and systemic health, with an increased risk for low birth-weight babies, diabetes, heart health issues, and stroke.  

2. Are there different kinds of gum disease?

Gum disease

is a three-stage condition. The first stage of gingivitis, characterized by tender, bleeding, and swollen gums, can be reversed with timely treatment. The second stage periodontitis, is characterized by worsening symptoms, including gum recession and deepening periodontal pockets between the teeth. The last and most severe stage of

gum disease

, advanced periodontitis, includes destruction of both the hard and soft tissue, loose and shifting teeth, and even tooth loss.

3. What increases my risk?

The main cause of gum disease is the plaque and tartar buildup that is not routinely removed with regular dental hygiene appointments. Other factors can contribute to the disease, including:

  • Poor oral and nutritional health
  • Presence of systemic diseases 
  • Bruxism (teeth grinding) 
  • Smoking or tobacco use 
  • Certain medications 
  • Genetics 
  • Age

4. What treatment options are available?
Treatment varies depending on the specific stage of gum disease. Gingivitis is reversible with a proper “deep cleaning” called scaling and root planing, which removes tartar buildup from above and below the gum line. Sometimes gum disease can be treated with antibiotics that help fight infection. More advanced stages require a gingivectomy or osseous surgery, which removes diseased gum tissue and reduces periodontal pockets, in addition to deep cleaning the surface of the teeth. With more advanced stages, after initial treatment, periodontal maintenance every 3-4 months is necessary to ensure disease does not return.  

5. Can gum disease be prevented?
Though gum disease can be genetic or due to medication use, there are certainly ways you can reduce your risk for gum disease! In addition to maintaining routine dental appointments and proper at-home care, eating a healthy diet and flossing and brushing daily can help prevent gum disease. Do not smoke or use tobacco, and if you grind your teeth, ask your dentist about custom night guards. If you have diabetes or other systemic concerns, talk with your doctor about precautions you can take to protect your smile.  

Are you concerned you may have gum disease? If you have swollen gums in Birmingham, AL, or any other symptoms of gum disease, you may want to schedule an appointment with our periodontist, Dr. Leigh Kent. Contact our office for a consultation today!