The connection between oral and overall health cannot be stressed enough. One of the best lines of defense in keeping your body safe from the bacteria in your mouth is your gums. Your gums are key in keeping your teeth, mouth and body healthy. Periodontal (gum) disease can do more than cause loose or lost teeth, it can lead to cardiovascular and respiratory problems and create complications for people living with diabetes.

Dougherty Dental Hygiene Philosophy

At Dougherty Dental, our dental hygiene team is committed to providing oral healthcare services based on the individual needs of our patients, with the goal of achieving optimal oral and general (systemic) health. Maintaining a comfortable, safe environment where trust and a mutual understanding of healthcare needs are essential in developing lifelong relationships. Utilizing the latest technology and evidence-based treatment protocols, our dentists and hygienists work collaboratively to consistently deliver comprehensive dental care.

The Connection Between Oral & Overall Health

Your oral and overall health are closely connected. In fact, gum disease and other medical conditions often contribute to the development of or exacerbate each other. Like many areas of your body, your mouth contains bacteria. Most bacteria are harmless, and normally the body’s natural defenses (in conjunction with good oral health care), keep the bacteria in your mouth under control. However, in some cases these bacteria reach levels where they can cause damage, such as tooth decay or gum disease. Some common conditions that can be affected by your oral health include bruxism, anxiety, digestive disorders, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, respiratory disease and pregnancy complications.

Dr speaking with patient

What is a healthy mouth?

Because the mouth is a window to your overall health and well-being, a healthy mouth is usually indicative of a generally healthy individual. Here are a few indications of what a healthy mouth looks like:

  • A healthy color of gums (reddish-pink)
  • Good saliva flow (no dry mouth, and no excessive amounts of saliva)
  • No bleeding while flossing
  • No inflammation
  • No tooth decay, infection, pain, missing teeth or bad breath

Routine Preventive Care vs. Prophylaxis

Routine Preventive Care 

During each of your regular dental visits, our Dentists and team will check your mouth for any signs of dental problems. These routine preventive care visits include cleaning your teeth to remove plaque or tartar, flossing and polishing your teeth, and an exam of your teeth and supporting structures. X-rays may also be used to check your teeth for cavities or other issues which may be developing. You should visit our office every six months for these active recare treatments.


If our Dentists diagnose you with periodontal disease, prophylaxis will be the first treatment they recommend to help fight the disease. prophylaxis is a type of deep dental cleaning, and is more thorough than a regular dental cleaning. Prophylaxis removes the tartar and plaque that builds up below the gum line and in areas of your mouth that are more difficult for you to reach when brushing and flossing at home. Your teeth will be cleaned and polished both above and below the gum lines to remove harmful deposits and make them smoother. These deep dental cleanings should be received about every three months. We will work with you to determine how often you should visit our office and to set up a schedule of regular appointments to help keep your mouth free from gum disease.

If you are diagnosed with a more severe form of gum disease, our Dentists may recommend a trusted specialist, with whom we will partner to ensure that you receive the quality care you need.

What are the signs of periodontal disease?

Indicators of gum disease include:

  • Swollen or tender gums
  • Gums that bleed easily when you brush, floss or eat
  • Gums that are red or even blue in color (healthy gums are pink)
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth
  • Receding gums

What are the causes of gum disease?

The primary cause of gum disease is the buildup or plaque and tartar, which is often a side effect of poor oral hygiene. Other factors can include:

  • Tobacco use
  • Diabetes and other diseases
  • Certain medications
  • Genetic factors
  • Pregnancy

In the early stages of gum disease, which is known as gingivitis, our dentists may suggest strengthening your home health routine. There are also other treatments than address and even reverse the effects of gingivitis. When gum disease becomes more advanced, a condition called periodontitis, more intensive treatment may be required.

Schedule your appointment

If you are concerned about periodontal disease in La Jolla, California, call 858-454-2656 today to schedule an appointment at Dougherty Dental with one of our Dentists, Paul E. Dougherty or Dr. Scott O. Szotko.