What is Periodontal Disease? How to Prevent Periodontal Disease
What Is Periodontal Disease

What is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal Disease Prevention in Santa Barbara

Periodontal disease (also called gum disease) is the leading cause of tooth loss.

The disease is caused by bacteria, which induces an inflammatory response in the gum tissue. As bacteria-laden plaque accumulates on the teeth and under the gumline, It causes a bacterial infection of the gums.

If you have periodontal (gum) disease, maintaining your dental hygiene is essential to your health. Our friendly staff and experienced dentists can help you prevent the disease from progressing.

What is Periodontics?

Periodontics is a specialty of dentistry that specifically addresses and provides treatment options for periodontal disease.

To become a periodontist, a dentist (after completing four years of dental training) must complete an additional three years of training to become a licensed periodontist.

What Is the Cause of Periodontal Disease?

The main cause of periodontal disease is bacteria. The bacteria like to feed on plaque, the soft residue that builds up on your teeth. Bacteria are attracted to the carbohydrates and sugars in the plaque.

If plaque isn't removed, it eventually calcifies, turning into a substance called tartar or calculus, which cannot be removed by brushing and flossing.

Your gum tissue is very delicate and the bacteria irritate the gums. As the plaque hardens into calculus, it acts similarly to a sliver that gets under your skin. It's irritating and causes inflammation, redness, swelling, and soreness. If the sliver isn't removed, you can end up with an infection. The same thing happens to your gums.

What Happens if Periodontal Disease is Left Untreated?

If the gum infection isn't treated, it can destroy the gums and bone surrounding the teeth. The gums try to recede from the plaque and calculus, resulting in deep pockets around the teeth. Eventually, the bone starts to recede as well. Not only do you end up with an active oral infection but you also end up with loose teeth that, in many cases, need to be extracted.

Lack of proper oral hygiene can be a major contributing factor to periodontal disease. This is why it is vital that you thoroughly brush and floss your teeth on a daily basis. Additionally, since it's impossible to remove calcified tartar, you need to visit your Santa Barbara dental team for regular professional cleanings.

Causes of Periodontal Disease
Causes of Periodontal Disease

What Are Other Contributors to Periodontal (Gum) Disease?

While plaque is the main cause of periodontal disease, other factors can cause or aggravate gum disease.


Some people are genetically predisposed to gum disease. This is why some people with poor dental hygiene may never have periodontal problems and why some folks who brush and floss religiously end up with the disease.

Weak immune system:

If bad bacteria remains in your body can weaken the immune system. If someone already has a weak immune system from conditions such as HIV or cancer, it can make fighting periodontal disease on their own more difficult.


High blood sugar in diabetics could make it easier for bacteria to thrive in the mouth.

Hormone changes:

Changes in hormones can make the gums more susceptible to bacterial infection. These hormonal changes include puberty, pregnancy, menses, and menopause.

Medication side effects:

Certain medicines can increase the risk of gum disease because they inhibit salivary production and flow, which naturally protects the teeth and gums.

Tobacco and marijuana:

Smoking and chewing tobacco can damage gum tissue. Also, some studies have linked regular marijuana use with an increase in periodontal disease.

What Are the Stages of Periodontal (Gum) Disease?

The first stage of gum disease is inflammation of the gums or gingivitis. You might notice that your gums bleed a little when brushing or are red instead of a healthy pink. At this stage, the teeth and underlying bone are still healthy. Gingivitis is reversible, so we urge our patients to see us regularly so we can catch the disease in this stage and prevent further damage.

Left untreated, gingivitis progresses and becomes gum disease (periodontitis). At this stage, the gum tissue starts to pull away from the teeth, increasing the depth of the natural gum pockets around the teeth. The deeper these pockets are, the harder it is to remove plaque and food debris and the easier it is for an infection to develop.

In advanced stages of periodontitis, the teeth appear longer and become loose because the bone has started to recede.

Periodontitis cannot be reversed. However, we can arrest the disease and prevent further damage with deep gum cleaning and regular maintenance cleanings.

Stages of Periodontal Disease
Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease

How Will I Know If I Have Gum Disease?

Some symptoms of periodontal disease include:

  • Red gums
  • Receding gums
  • Swollen, tender gum tissue
  • Pain and tooth sensitivity
  • Gum bleeding while practicing oral hygiene
  • Bad breath or a funny taste in the mouth
  • Deeper gum pocket measurements
  • Loose teeth
  • Changes in your bite

Please note that gum disease isn't always obvious or painful. Therefore, it's imperative to your oral health to see your dentist for regular check-ups. At these appointments, your dentist or hygienist will measure your gum pocket depths and evaluate the health and appearance of the gum tissue. Regular appointments allow your dental team to catch issues early and prevent long-term damage.

Is It Possible to Manage or Prevent Gum Disease?

Gingivitis is the only stage of periodontal disease that is reversible. Though you won't be able to restore lost bone or gum tissue if you're in the advanced stages of periodontitis, you can prevent the disease from progressing and hopefully avoid tooth loss.

How to Keep Your Gums Healthy

The most important thing you can do to stop the progression of gum disease is to control your plaque levels. Daily brushing and flossing, in addition to at least two professional cleanings per year can keep plaque at bay.

If you have advanced gum disease, you'll need to have a deep dental cleaning called root planing. You'll need to schedule two appointments, during which anesthesia will be administered to one side of your mouth. Our hygienist will use various tools, including an ultrasonic cleaner, to break up tartar and wash it and the bad bacteria away. At the next appointment, we'll focus on the other side of your mouth.

Once you've had periodontal treatment, you'll need regular maintenance cleanings every three to four months depending on your unique needs. As someone who has had gum disease, frequent cleanings help keep tartar build-up at bay and prevent disease progression. They also allow your dentist to keep a close eye on your gum health and take action right away if your disease starts to progress again.

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Gum Disease Prevention
 Santa Barbra CA
Keep Gums Healthy

Other Ways to Help Keep Your Gums Healthy

Making some adjustments to your lifestyle can improve gum health. Some suggestions include:

Improve dental hygiene:

Our dental team is happy to review proper brushing and flossing techniques with you. We may even recommend high-tech tools that promote gum health, such as an electric toothbrush or waterpik.

Reduce sugar intake:

Since bacteria love sugar, lower the amount of sugary sweets and soft drinks you consume.

Eat healthier:

Nutrient-dense foods - like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes - can help keep your gums, teeth, and bones healthy.

Stop smoking:

Smoking of any kind, including marijuana, may be a causative factor in gum disease. In fact, tobacco may increase your chances of periodontitis by seven times.

Lower stress:

Stress can impair your immune system and cause chronic inflammation throughout your body, including your mouth. Try relaxation techniques like meditation to improve your body's ability to stave off gum disease.

Treat bruxism:

Bruxism, or teeth grinding and clenching, can aggravate periodontal disease. If night-time teeth grinding is an issue, ask us about options such as mouth guards to help prevent this.

How Much Does Periodontal Therapy Cost?

Procedures can range from $500 to $3000 depending on which stage of gum disease you're in, the extent of damage you have, and the type of treatment you need.

Thankfully, insurance companies cover a portion of the cost, typically ranging from 50% to 80% depending on your level of coverage.

Our team is happy to provide you with a thorough cost estimate and discuss payment options so you can get treatment and protect your oral health.

Stop Gum Disease to Protect Your Oral and General Health

Gum disease doesn't just cause inflammation, sore gums, and tooth loss. It can also take a toll on your general health. In recent years, periodontal disease has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, kidney disease, cognitive impairment, and more.

Addressing your gum disease will help reduce inflammation throughout your body and lower bad bacteria levels. Not only will this benefit your teeth and gums, but it will also keep your whole body healthier.

Meet Dr. Omid

Dr. Omid Barkhordar, DDS has earned his reputation as a leading family and cosmetic dentist in Santa Barbara, the Central Coast, and Southern California. He is committed to providing patients of all ages with compassionate care.

From general dentistry to advanced procedures, Dr. Omid uses innovative technology and gentle techniques to deliver safe and stress-free dental care so patients can enjoy a painless, healthy, and gorgeous smile.

Dr. Omid earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree from the University of Southern California (USC) School of Dentistry in one of the best dental programs in the United States. His dedication to helping patients achieve their perfect smile has earned Dr. Omid the continued trust and recommendation of many clients.

No matter the age or needs of the patient, Dr. Omid is committed to helping you discover the benefits of a healthy, beautiful smile.

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Dr. Omid Barkhordar


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