What can cause gum disease?

The main cause of gum disease is bacterial plaque, a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. In order to keep your teeth and gums healthy, daily cleaning is required in the form of brushing and flossing.

If the plaque is not removed, it hardens into a rough, porous deposit called calculus, or tartar. Toxins produced by the bacteria in the plaque irritate the gums. The toxins destroy supporting tissues around the teeth. Gums then pull away from the teeth, forming pockets which then fill up with more plaque.

As gum disease progresses, the pockets continue to become deeper and deeper. Consequently, plaque continues to move further down the roots of the teeth damaging the bone which support them. Unless treated, the affected teeth can become loose and eventually may be lost.

Unfortunately, even with the most diligent home dental care, people still can develop some form of periodontal disease. Once this disease starts, professional intervention is necessary to prevent its progress.

Other important factors affecting the health of your gums include:

  • Smoking and Use of Tobacco
  • Diabetes
  • Stress
  • Medications
  • Clenching and grinding teeth
  • Diseases
  • Poor nutrition
  • Pregnancy

Smoking and Use of Tobacco
Current studies have now linked periodontal disease with tobacco usage.  These cases may be even more severe than those of non-users of tobacco.  There is a greater incidence of calculus formation on teeth, deeper pockets between gums and teeth as well as greater loss of the bone and fibers that hold teeth in your mouth.  Chemicals in tobacco such as nicotine and tar, slow down healing and the predictability of success following periodontal treatment.

Problems caused by tobacco include Lung disease, heart disease, cancer, mouth sores, gum recession, loss of bone and teeth, bad breath, tooth staining, less success with periodontal treatment and with dental implants. Quitting tobacco will reduce the chance of developing the above problems.

Diabetes
Individuals suffering from diabetes, especially uncontrolled diabetics, have a higher risk of developing bacterial infections of the mouth. These infections may impair your ability to process insulin, resulting in greater difficulty with controlling your diabetes. Periodontal diseases will be more severe than those of a non-diabetic and treatment more difficult.  However, well-controlled diabetics have a lower incidence of cavities.

Stress
Makes it hard for the body to fight off infection.

Medications
Some drugs, such as birth control pills, antidepressants, heart medicines, seizure medicines, and cancer drugs may affect your gums.

Clenching or grinding teeth
Puts extra force on the supporting tissues and could speed up the disease.

Diseases
Some diseases like diabetes and AIDS make you more prone to infection and may make periodontal diseases more severe.

Poor Nutrition
Can make it harder for the body to fight infection.

Pregnancy
Changes in hormone levels may make the gums more sensitive to plaque.  For more information check Women and Periodontal Health

How to Prevent Periodontal Disease
Steps to prevent periodontal disease include daily brushing and flossing to remove plaque from your teeth and gums, regular dental visits for professional cleaning and regular periodontal evaluation. Your health professional must also be told of your history and the current status of your condition.  And finally, you can help resist periodontal infection by maintaining control of your blood sugar levels.