Gum disease is a common oral health problem affecting millions worldwide. It is a bacterial infection that affects the gums and supporting tissues around your teeth. If left untreated, this can lead to inflammation, bleeding, and even tooth loss. While there are a variety of things that cause gum disease, there are several main factors that contribute to its development.
Poor Oral Hygiene
The most common cause of gum disease is poor oral hygiene. When you do not brush and floss your teeth regularly, plaque gathers on the surface of your teeth and gums. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that can cause gum inflammation and infection. Over time, the plaque hardens and turns into tartar, which only a dental professional can remove during cleaning.
Smoking or using any other form of tobacco increases your risk of gum disease. Tobacco use weakens your immune system and reduces blood flow to the gums, making it harder for your body to fight off gum infections. Smokers also tend to have more plaque and tartar buildup than non-smokers.
A poor diet lacking essential vitamins and minerals can weaken your immune system and make it harder for your body to fight off infections. A diet high in sugar and processed foods can also contribute to plaque buildup and increase your risk of gum disease. Eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help improve oral health and reduce your risk of gum disease.
Hormonal changes during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause can affect the health of your gums. During puberty, increased levels of hormones can cause the gums to become more sensitive and susceptible to inflammation. During pregnancy, hormonal changes can cause the gums to become red, swollen, and bleed easily. This condition is known as pregnancy gingivitis and usually resolves after giving birth.
Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes and autoimmune disorders, can increase your risk of gum disease. Diabetes affects your body’s ability to control blood sugar levels and can lead to decreased blood flow to the gums, making it harder for your body to fight off infections. Autoimmune disorders can also weaken your immune system and increase your risk of gum infections.
Certain medications, such as antidepressants, heart medications, and chemotherapy drugs, can cause dry mouth, increasing your risk of gum disease. Saliva helps neutralize acids produced by bacteria and washes away food particles that can lead to plaque buildup. Without enough saliva, your teeth and gums are more vulnerable to infection.
Some people are more genetically predisposed to gum disease than others. You may be more susceptible to developing the condition if you have a family history of gum disease. It’s important to inform your dentist if gum disease runs in your family so that they can take preventative measures.