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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. Beaty is an awesome Dentist! She also has a terrific Team of assistants who go above and beyond to make all patients feel comfortable. I would probably be the youngest person in history to have dentures if it wasn’t for Dr. Beaty. My family and I have been going to Dr. Beaty for over 20 years. I was looking for a pediatric dentist and when I called the office to make an appointment for another dentist, I was informed that Dr. Beaty had taken over the practice. I was assured she was great with children and she definitely did not disappoint! Dr. Beaty and her staff are excellent with children. My son was 3 and my daughter was 8 when we became patients of Dr. Beaty’s and since that union, my children have always looked forward to going to the dentist. Dr. Beaty – as well as her entire staff – have awesome personalities, terrific bedside manner and just overall kindness and concern for their patients. I have never been to a more dedicated, compassionate dentist who deeply cares about preserving your teeth. Dr. Beaty has always explained all treatment options, procedures, and the costs involved for those procedures. DB Dentistry follows-up with their patients to make sure there are no complications from procedures and that the patient is doing well. Even when she referred my children to the Orthodontist for braces, she made sure to check on their progress and to make sure we (especially the children) were comfortable with her referral. Dr. Beaty made sure that the excellent care her office provided was also being provided by her referral. To add to the excellent patient care, the amenities offered are above and beyond – from the chair massage, to the paraffin hand wax, to the warm neck wrap, to the mellow music. Feels more like going to a spa instead of seeing the dentist. Over the years, I have referred many family members and co-workers to Dr. Beaty and they remain patients. While Dr. Beaty is not an in-network dentist through my insurance, it is WELL worth the few dollars more to have peace of mind, comfort, and awesome care. I often think, I called looking for a dentist and gained a well-trusted and most respected friend. My family loves Dr. Beaty and DB Dentistry. They are THE BEST!!

Sandra

Naturally I spent the weekend on FACEBOOK sharing your artistry! The results are still unbelievable! The transformation is literally life-changing and I can't begin to thank you and your team of professionals enough for making it happen.

Michael

Dear Dr. Beaty,

What I appreciate most about your dental practice is your focus on the future. Rather than scold a patient for poor past dental care, you work with the patient to build better habits going forward.

I also appreciate your efforts to relieve patients’ anxiety about visiting the dentist. Some days the hot neck wrap, paraffin hand dip, or just the pleasant view turn a stressful experience into a relaxing one.

Matthew

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