Descanso Medical Center
1346 Foothill Blvd., Suite 302
La Canada, CA 91011
Phone: (818) 790-1710
Fax: (818) 790-1561



Periodontal simply means “the tissue around the teeth.” Periodontists specialize in the treatment and surgery of this area, which is often characterized by gum disease. Plaque is the most common element causing gum disease.

Unfortunately, periodontal-related problems are often discovered after they have persisted for an extended period of time. Proper oral hygiene, daily dental care and regular dental checkups will minimize the risk of gum disease. Gum disease ranges from mild (gingivitis) to moderate (periodintitis) to the severe (periodontitis). Treatments are available for every case of gum disease.

What are some common problems associated with periodontal disease?

Bleeding Gums

Commonly found among people who inadequately take care of their teeth, bleeding gums are mainly attributed to unsatisfactory removal of plaque from the teeth and gums. If bleeding gums are allowed to persist, they can lead to gingivitis or inflamed gums. Once plaque begins to accumulate, it can harden and eventually lead to increased bleeding and a more severe form of gum disease known as periodontitis.

Receding Gums

Mostly occurring in adults over the age of 40, receding gums can be caused by gum disease, aggressive tooth brushing, an unbalanced bite, trauma or general wear and tear. Characterized by sensitive teeth, receding gums occur when the gums and the bone in the mouth have moved away from the teeth, creating the unsightly appearance of an elongated tooth.  

Gum Disease

Gum, or periodontal, disease can cause inflammation, tooth loss and bone damage. Gum disease begins with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Gums in the early stage of disease, or gingivitis, can bleed easily and become red and swollen. As the disease progresses to periodontitis, teeth may fall out or need to be removed by a dentist. Gum disease is highly preventable and can usually be avoided by daily brushing and flossing. One indicator of gum disease is consistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth.

Tooth Sensitivity

Sharp pain or discomfort in one or more teeth triggered by such things as hot, cold, sweet or sour foods and even cold air is known as tooth sensitivity. Tooth sensitivity can occur when dentin (the protective blanket covering the roots) becomes exposed as a result of receding gum tissue. The pain or discomfort you may experience occurs when dentinal tubules leading the tooth’s nerve center allow the hot, cold, sweet and sour stimuli to reach the nerve center. 

Halitosis (Bad Breath)

Halitosis is the medical term used to describe bad breath, a problem afflicting over 90 million Americans. In many cases, halitosis can be traced back to sulfur-producing bacteria that forms when food particles or other debris become trapped within pockets of the teeth and gums and begin to decay. The sulfur produced as a by-product from the trapped bacteria is the source of the unpleasant odor. If allowed to persist, sulfur gases can be damaging to the tissue in the mouth and eventually lead to severe periodontal disease.

The effects of gum disease can be damaging to your dental health. However, through proper preventive care and oral hygiene, you can avoid problems associated with gum disease.

What is a periodontist?  Do I need to see one?

A periodontist specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of periodontal disease, as well as dental implant placement. All periodontists are general dentists, but they receive additional training of up to three years after dental school to obtain the necessary education to perform procedures in periodontics. Your general dentist may refer you to a periodontist if you exhibit the symptoms of gum disease; however, you may schedule an appointment on your own if you have concerns about your oral health.

What is periodontal disease, and am I at risk of developing it?

The term “periodontal” simply means “around the tooth.” Periodontal disease affects the gums and bones supporting the teeth. Also known as gum disease, periodontal disease is mainly attributed to the bacteria in dental plaque, which causes the gums to become inflamed and infected. Other factors, such as smoking or tobacco use, poor nutrition, stress or pregnancy, may put you at risk of developing gum disease.

Is periodontal disease contagious?

Although it is not an airborne disease, research has indicated that the bacteria that cause gum disease can be passed through saliva. Therefore, families and couples who may be in close contact with a person with gum disease are also at risk. We recommend being screened for periodontal disease regularly if you are potentially at risk.

My gums bleed when I brush my teeth.  Is this normal?

Healthy gums should not bleed when you brush your teeth. This is one of the early signs of gum disease. You should schedule an appointment with your periodontist for a complete periodontal screening.

Are there any ways to prevent periodontal disease?

A good oral hygiene regimen is imperative in preventing periodontal disease. Proper brushing and flossing, in conjunction with regular dental visits for professional cleanings twice a year, will help keep your smile healthy for life.

Are dental implants the best restoration option?

Your periodontist can determine if dental implants are your best restoration option for your individual case. Dental implants have a natural look and feel and can help prevent shifting of surrounding teeth. Implants are often preferred to bridges and dentures because they are more secure and can help prevent bone loss. Also, adjacent teeth are not affected by the placement of implants.

If I have periodontal disease, do I need surgery?  What are my options?

Whether you need surgery or not will depend on how advanced your periodontal disease is. There are non-surgical treatments, such as root scaling and planing available, for those with mild gum disease. If you are in the advanced stages of gum disease, you may benefit from having surgery. With the latest technology and advanced techniques available today, many surgical procedures can be performed in an office setting with little discomfort.

What is maintenance therapy?

Maintenance therapy is used to help prevent further infection from occurring in patients who have already received periodontal treatment. Your periodontist will tailor a program to fit your needs, which will include periodontal checkups, plaque and tartar removal and sometimes polishing your teeth or checking your bite. The frequency of visits varies from case to case, from every few weeks to four times per year.

I have a “gummy” smile. What can be done to correct this?

A procedure called crown lengthening can correct “gummy” smiles. “Gummy” smiles make teeth appear too short. With crown lengthening, the gums and supporting tissues are reshaped to expose more of the tooth.

My gums are receding and my teeth appear “long.”  Can this be fixed?

If left untreated, gum recession can lead to tooth loss. Soft tissue grafts can fix this condition and also prevent further recession or bone loss. In the procedure, gum tissue is taken from your palate or another donor source. This tissue is then placed over the exposed roots, which helps to even out the gum line and reduce sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures.