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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. Hekmat and all of his staff are gentle and friendly. They take the fear out of going to the dentist. He has done quality work on my teeth for the last three years and fixed problems I had from previous, poor quality dental work too! I am more than willing to drive 40 miles from where I live because I've never had such a great dental experience anywhere else!

Taylor w

Dr. Hekmat is absolutely wonderful, I couldn't imagine going to anyone else. He and his entire staff are caring and knowledgable; the quality of care is as good as it gets.
This is not your typical dentist experience. When I walk in today for my appointment, there was no check-in process- the assistant working at the front desk recognized me and told me the hygienist would be with me shortly (2 minutes later, right on time). They actually take the time to get to know their patients, which is especially comforting for those of us who get a little antsy when it comes time for a dental appointment.
The facility is top-notch. It's incredibly clean, TV in the lobby, and the chairs have massagers in the back so you can focus on something besides having your teeth cleaned. The pictures on their website might look too good to be true, but it's just genuinely that nice.
Dr. Hekmat and his staff are all phenomenal. They know what they're doing, take the time to explain what they're doing, and to answer questions. I would recommend Dr. Hekmat to anyone looking for a dentist or to change dentists, he's the best!

Chelsea S.

Dr. Hekmat's offices are so clean, soothing, and modern that it almost (ALMOST ... it's still the dentist!) feels like visiting the spa when you visit. I drive up all the way from the UTC area because I trust him and his staff with my teeth and my jittery nerves! They even take a photo of you at your first visit, so that when you come back, the receptionist greets you by name and already knows who you are - very welcoming, and a unique touch. Even the lighting is warm and relaxing, and the view from the chair is of a large, grassy pond filled with ducks.

Dr. Hekmat himself is friendly, calming, and talented. He replaced several silver filings with white filings for me - and he was really, really fast. Which was really appreciated by me, because I'm a big baby when it comes to the dentist. Several months later, and I'm silver-free and my filings have done great.

Ann M.

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