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What Causes Gum Disease?

Team Periodontal Disease

Gum disease, officially periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums. It is a very common condition that affects close to 50% of American adults and about 67% of adults who are 65 or older. Why is gum disease so common? Because the cause of gum disease is normal and can happen to anyone.

Breaking Down the Cause

The cause of gum disease can be attributed to two basic things:

  • Plaque. Food particles that remain on your teeth after you eat eventually turn into plaque, which is a sticky residue that clings to your teeth. Plaque that is not removed eventually hardens and turns into tartar, which requires special dental tools to remove. 
  • Bacteria. Plaque and tartar feed the bacteria in your mouth, causing an overgrowth of bacteria. The bacteria invade the gum tissue and cause infection, which is gum disease. The gums become irritated and inflamed.

Habits That Affect Your Risk of Developing Gum Disease

The more plaque and tartar you have on your teeth, the higher your risk of developing gum disease. Your personal habits can directly affect your risk for developing gum disease, such as:

  • Oral Hygiene. If you practice good oral hygiene habits you will be less likely to develop gum disease. Good habits include brushing your teeth twice a day for at least 2 minutes and flossing between your teeth once a day. Special equipment can help you get your teeth cleaner and remove more plaque, such as electric toothbrushes and waterpiks. This will reduce your risk of developing gum disease.
  • Smoking. Smoking increases your risk for developing gum disease for a few different reasons. Smoking lowers your body’s ability to fight infections in general, and gum disease is a bacterial infection of the gums. It also makes it more difficult to detect gum disease because it masks the symptoms. Two of the most common symptoms of gum disease are red and bleeding gums, but smoking reduces the blood flow to the gums and makes them appear gray. Undiagnosed gum disease progresses and becomes more difficult to treat, and combined with the lowered immune system, makes for a difficult recovery.
  • Teeth Grinding. If you are prone to grinding or clenching your teeth, you could be putting yourself at a greater risk of developing gum disease. Hard biting can cause gaps to open up between the teeth and the gum tissue, which allows bacteria to get in and infect the gums.
  • Nutrition. What you eat plays a part in your risk factor for gum disease in different ways as well. If you consume a lot of sugary foods and beverages, you will naturally build up more plaque on your teeth as sugar sticks to your teeth and feeds the bacteria. And if you’re not eating a nutritious diet, your immune system will not be as strong to fight off the infection.

Diabetes is another risk factor for gum disease. Although it is not a personal habit, developing some types of diabetes can be due to eating a poor diet and not getting enough exercise.

Symptoms of Gum Disease

Gum disease is detected by a few different signs and symptoms, including:

  • Red, irritated gums. Gum disease causes inflammation of the gums due to the infection.
  • Swollen gums. Irritation eventually leads to swelling.
  • Bleeding when brushing or flossing. When gums become irritated and inflamed, the blood vessels are close to the surface of the gum tissue. Brushing and flossing can easily cause bleeding.
  • Chronic bad breath. Bacterial infection causes an odor that can’t be cleared up with traditional methods. The gum disease must be treated to correct the breath.
  • Receding gums. Gum disease can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth.
  • Loose teeth. When gum disease progresses, the gums are unable to support the teeth and they may become loose and even fall out.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you should contact your dentist and make an appointment for an evaluation.

Visit MD Smiles for Treatment and Prevention of Gum Disease

Do you have any of the above symptoms of gum disease? If so, MD Smiles can help. We can treat your existing gum disease and prevent it from coming back. Regular dental cleanings can help prevent gum disease by removing plaque and tartar from your teeth. Routine dental exams can aid in early detection of gum disease, which makes it easier to treat.

Call 410-531-2690 today to schedule an exam or request an appointment. We look forward to helping you maintain your oral health.