Dr. Kathleen Mullaney • DDS • FAGD

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What Is Gum Disease?

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a common oral health problem that affects people of all ages. It’s estimated that nearly half of adults in the United States have some form of gum disease.

Despite its prevalence, many people don’t know what gum disease is, how it can damage their teeth and gums, or how to prevent it. Here’s what you should know.

What Is Gum Disease?

Gum disease is an infection that affects the tissues around the teeth, causing inflammation and other symptoms. There are two types: Gingivitis and Periodontitis.


Gingivitis, the milder form of gum disease, usually occurs due to poor oral hygiene, leading to plaque build-up. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria. If not cleaned off regularly, it can irritate the gums. Symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen gums that may bleed easily during brushing.

The good news is, if it’s detected early, gingivitis is reversible with improved dental care.


If you don’t treat gingivitis, it can become periodontitis, a more serious gum disease.

Periodontitis is a gum infection that spreads beyond the gum line, damaging the bone that supports your teeth. This condition can lead to gum recession and even tooth loss as the gums start to pull away from the teeth, creating pockets that can become infected.

The severity of periodontitis depends on how much bone loss and inflammation there is.

What Causes Gum Disease?

Several factors can cause gum disease, but the most common is poor oral hygiene. Other factors include:

  • Smoking or using other tobacco products
  • Hormonal changes, such as those that occur during pregnancy or menopause
  • Medications
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Dry mouth
  • Family history of gum disease


Health Risks of Gum Disease

Gum disease affects more than just your oral health. For example, people with periodontal disease are nearly twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without the disease.

Other health problems associated with gum disease include diabetes, respiratory infections, rheumatoid arthritis, and stroke. In pregnant women, gum disease can lead to premature birth or low birth weight babies.

How to Treat Periodontal Disease

The treatment for gum disease depends on its severity. If it’s caught early, you can treat gum disease with good oral hygiene practices. This means brushing your teeth twice a day for two minutes each time, flossing once daily, and seeing our Alexandria dentist, Dr. Mullaney, for regular checkups and cleanings.

Severe cases may require more extensive treatments, such as:

Deep Cleaning

Deep cleaning, also known as scaling and root planing, is a procedure to remove plaque and tartar from above and below the gum line. Scaling involves scraping off the target, while root planing smooths out rough spots on the teeth, making it harder for bacteria to accumulate.


In some cases, medications may be used as part of the treatment plan. These might include antibiotic gels, oral antibiotics, or antiseptic mouthwashes.

Surgical Treatments

For advanced periodontitis, surgical treatment may be necessary. These could include flap surgery to lift back the gums and remove tartar deposits, bone grafts to replace bone destroyed by gum disease, or soft tissue grafts to reinforce thin gums or fill in places where gums have receded.

How Do I Prevent Gum Disease?

  • Brush your teeth twice a day using a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Flossing daily to remove plaque from between your teeth and along the gum line, where your toothbrush can’t reach.
  • Regular dental check-ups and cleanings.
  • Eat a balanced diet and limit snacks between meals.
  • Quit smoking. Tobacco use significantly increases the risk of gum disease.


Don’t Let Gum Disease Steal Your Smile!

Take control of your oral health today by booking an appointment with Dr. Kathleen Mullaney, DDS, in Alexandria today! We’re committed to providing personalized dental care services to help you keep your smile healthy and bright.

Call 240-532-3335 to learn more.
Author Bio: Dr. Kathleen Mullaney offers various general and cosmetic dentistry services in Alexandria, VA. She earned her doctorate in dental surgery from the Medical College of Virginia (MCV) and proudly served as a United States Navy dentist before opening her practice. With over 25 years of experience, Dr. Mullaney is delighted to be one of Old Town’s most respected and sought-after dentists! Call 240-532-3335 to schedule an appointment.

Deal of the Day

* Includes necessary X-rays, Velscope Oral Cancer Screening and periodontal examination
(New Patients Only, excludes cleaning. Not billable to insurance)

Trusted in the Community

Had my first visit to Dr. Mullaney’s office this month since the pandemic and the experience was gold standard. The safety processes and clean office environment were impeccable. Dr. Mullaney and staff were, as usual, amazing. Every step was explained, the protective garments worn by staff were the best I have experienced. It was a safe and positive visit and I recommend making an appointment!!

I am a new patient. After my first dentist appointment with Dr. Mullaney, I left feeling very informed and in control of ultimately making decisions about the care and treatment I receive. The staff is incredibly kind and knowledgeable. I love that they participate in helping veterans through The Freedom Day USA program. They are committed to providing a very clean and friendly atmosphere. In addition this practice goes out of its way to bring comfort and the latest in dentistry to all their patients.

I never thought that a person could enjoy going to the dentist until I started seeing Dr. Mullaney. Her attractive and serene office and Dr. Mullaney and her competent and friendly staff make every visit a pleasure. They have a gift for making each experience smooth and efficient, with meticulous attention to the patient’s needs and comfort. On a scale of 1 to 10 this practice is a 15!

Dr. Mullaney and her staff are absolutely wonderful. They are very professional, personable and greet you by name when you walk in the door. Dr. Mullaney is very talented and really has perfected her craft. Even with a last-minute treatment change, she is unwavering in performing the highest quality treatment available. I am extremely grateful to you all for making my visit pleasant and even fun!