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Causes of Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease, which is also known as gum disease and periodontitis, is a progressive disease which, if left untreated, may result in tooth loss.  Gum disease begins with the inflammation and irritation of the gingival tissues which surround and support the teeth.  The cause of this inflammation is the toxins found in plaque which cause an ongoing bacterial infection.

The bacterial infection colonizes in the gingival tissue, and deep pockets form between the teeth and the gums.  If treated promptly by a periodontist, the effects of mild inflammation (known as gingivitis) are completely reversible.  However, if the bacterial infection is allowed to progress, periodontal disease begins to destroy the gums and the underlying jawbone, promoting tooth loss.  In some cases, the bacteria from this infection can travel to other areas of the body via the bloodstream.

Common Causes of Gum Disease

There are genetic and environmental factors involved in the onset of gum disease, and in many cases, the risk of developing periodontitis can be significantly lowered by taking preventative measures. 

Here are some of the most common causes of gum disease:

  • Poor dental hygiene - Preventing dental disease starts at home with good oral hygiene and a balanced diet.  Prevention also includes regular dental visits which include exams, cleanings, and x-rays.  A combination of excellent home care and professional dental care will preserve the natural dentition and support of bony structures.  When bacteria and calculus (tartar) are not removed, the gums and bone around the teeth become affected by bacterial toxins and can cause gingivitis or periodontitis, which ultimately lead to tooth loss.
  • Tobacco use – Research has indicated that smoking and tobacco use are some of the most significant factors in the development and progression of gum disease.  In addition to smokers experiencing a slower recovery and healing rate, smokers are far more likely to suffer from calculus (tartar) build-up on teeth, deep pockets in the gingival tissue, and significant bone loss. 
  • Genetic predisposition – Despite practicing rigorous oral hygiene routines, as much as 30% of the population may have a strong genetic predisposition to gum disease.  These individuals are six times more likely to develop periodontal disease than individuals with no genetic predisposition.  Genetic tests can be used to determine susceptibility and early intervention can be performed to keep the oral cavity healthy.
  • Pregnancy and menopause – During pregnancy, regular brushing and flossing is critical. Hormonal changes experienced by the body can cause the gum tissue to become more sensitive, rendering them more susceptible to gum disease.
  • Chronic stress and poor diet – Stress lowers the ability of the immune system to fight off disease which means bacterial infection can beat the body’s defense system.  Poor diet or malnutrition can also lower the body’s ability to fight periodontal infections, as well as negatively affecting the health of the gums.
  • Diabetes and underlying medical issues – Many medical conditions can intensify or accelerate the onset and progression of gum disease including respiratory disease, heart disease, arthritis and osteoporosis.  Diabetes hinders the body’s ability to utilize insulin which makes the bacterial infection in the gums more difficult to control and cure.
  • Grinding teeth – The clenching or grinding of teeth can significantly damage the supporting tissue surrounding the teeth.  Grinding one’s teeth is usually associated with a “bad bite” or the misalignment of the teeth.  When an individual is suffering from gum disease, the additional destruction of gingival tissue due to grinding can accelerate the progression of the disease.
  • Medication – Many drugs including oral contraceptive pills, heart medicines, anti-depressants, and steroids affect the overall condition of teeth and gums, making them more susceptible to gum disease.  Steroid use promotes gingival overgrowth, which makes swelling more commonplace and allows bacteria to colonize more readily in the gum tissue.

Treatment of Gum Disease

Periodontists specialize in the treatment of gum disease and the placement of dental implants.  A periodontist can perform effective cleaning procedures in deep pockets such as scaling and root planing; they can also prescribe antibiotic and antifungal medications to treat infection and halt the progression of the disease. 

In the case of tooth loss, the periodontist is able to perform tissue grafts to promote natural tissue regeneration, and insert dental implants if a tooth or several teeth are missing.  Where gum recession causes a “toothy” looking smile, the periodontist can recontour the gingival tissue to create an even and aesthetically pleasing appearance.

Preventing periodontal disease is critical in preserving the natural dentition.  Addressing the causes of gum disease and discussing them with your dentist will help prevent the onset, progression, and recurrence of periodontal disease.

If you have any questions or concerns about the causes or treatments pertaining to gum disease, please ask your dentist.

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Testimonials

Dr. K was kind enough to examine my situation and create a mouth night guard for me. The guard really helped to ease the pain of grinding my teeth at night. She helped explain what was happening to my jaw/joints/teeth and was able to create the guard in a few days. Thanks Dr. K and Ana!

Kristina L.

I sought out dental services by Dr. Kasparian after hearing about her through a colleague at work. She came highly recommended. Happy to say that I've been a satisfied patient of hers since January 2012. My oral hygiene wasn't the best that it could've been back when I first started going to Dr. Kasparian. She was very direct in her recommendations and I appreciated her honesty in describing to me the reality of the situation in how I was going to need to improve my oral hygiene. I have taken her consultations seriously and my teeth are the best they've been. She is the type of dentist who makes you want to follow her advice because she knows what she's talking about. I recommend her to anyone who wants superior service for dental hygiene. Also, her staff are always so nice!

Marissa B.

I was referred to Dr. Kasparian through a coworker after avoiding the dentist for well over 3 years (oops). Upon my first appointment with her, I quickly realized how thorough and knowledgeable she was about dentistry and improving the state of my mouth.

Because it had been years since receiving any dental service, my teeth required extensive help. Dr. Kasparian and her staff were wonderful, patient, and friendly throughout the whole experience. I actually enjoyed going to the dentist, knowing that my oral hygiene was in the hands of a dentist with vast experience in the field and who truly had my best interests in mind.

Now that my teeth are at their healthiest they've been in ages, I must highly recommend Dr. Silvia Kasparian to anyone in need of a dentist. She'll make sure your teeth receive all the attention they require and will set you up with an awesome oral hygiene regimen to get your smile looking as beautiful as possible.

Also, once you've completed all of your necessary treatments, you get a free professional grade teeth whitening kit that is legit. I'm telling you... your smile will be looking beautiful once Dr. Kasparian is through with it.

Chelsea M.

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