What Are the Causes of Gum Disease?

Periodontal (gum) disease is an infection of the tissues which begins as a simple gum inflammation but can gradually destroy the soft tissue and bone that support your teeth. People over 35 years of age actually lose more teeth to gum diseases than from cavities!

Types of Gum Disease

To define some terms, gingivitis is the earliest form of gum disease and is caused by the presence of plaque on teeth. Its symptoms are those red, inflamed gums we mentioned. If left untreated, gingivitis can lead to more serious forms of periodontal disease(s), known as periodontitis, which can progress towards tooth loss

What Causes Gum Disease?

Gum disease is mainly caused by bad brushing and flossing habits that allow plaque-a sticky film of bacteria-to build up on the teeth and harden to form tartar.  Tartar below the gum line can only be removed by a dentist or hygienist.

Risk Factors

There are a number of risk factors for gum disease, as you will see one of the most significant risk factors can be prevented.


Not just a factor in lung disease and mouth cancers, smoking is the most significant risk factor in gum disease. Of all the factors, we will present, this is one that can be prevented. You can read more about smoking and gum disease in this blog.

Diabetes and Other Illnesses and Treatments/Medications

People with diabetes have a higher risk for developing infections including gum disease. And, AIDS and cancer both are diseases which can cause gum disease. It doesn’t help that the treatment for each can also increase your risk for inflamed gums and periodontitis. Many over-the-counter medications also make the mouth susceptible to gum disease by reducing the flow of saliva, which is a natural protector of the teeth and gums.

Age / Sex

As we age, the dangers of gum disease increase. People usually don’t show signs of gum disease until they are in their 30’s or 40’s. Men are more likely to have gum disease than women, but some studies believe this is because statistically women are more likely to be proactive about their dental care.


Susceptibility to periodontal disease can also be hereditary. This causes some individuals to be more likely to develop periodontal diseases even with added care.

Preventing Gum Disease

Dr. Jessica Stilley and Dr. Steven Lieber share six tips to preventing gum disease in one of their other blogs.  They add that prevention is key, but if you have bleeding gums during or after brushing or flossing, red, swollen, or tender gums, persistent bad breath, loose or shifting teeth, please make an appointment with us or your local periodontal office. 

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