What Are the Causes of Gum Disease?

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection of the gum tissues. It can cause damage to the gums and jawbone and, in severe cases, tooth loss. Gum disease is caused by plaque, which is made up of bacteria. If the plaque is not removed, it hardens and turns into tartar. Tartar cannot be removed with regular brushing and flossing.

These are the common causes of gum disease:

Poor Dental Hygiene

The most common cause of gum disease is poor oral hygiene. If you fail to brush your teeth at least twice a day and floss at least once, you are more likely to develop periodontal disease. If you skip your regularly scheduled professional cleanings and checkups, you are also at risk for developing periodontitis.

If your mouth is not properly cleaned, plaque builds up on the teeth and hardens. This substance can’t be removed with brushing or flossing and must be scraped away by a dentist during teeth cleaning appointment. When it’s left untreated, it irritates the gum tissue and causes gingivitis to develop. The longer you wait to treat gum disease, the more damage it causes. The longer the disease goes untreated, the more difficult it becomes to manage and treat.

Smoking Cigarettes, Cigars, or Pipes

Cigarettes and other forms of tobacco contain nicotine, which irritates gum tissue and causes it to separate from teeth. This disrupts the oral microbiome, increases your risk of tooth decay, and makes gum disease more difficult to treat. If you’re a smoker, quitting is one of the most important things you can do to improve your oral health!

In addition to causing gum recession, smoking can speed up the formation of oral cancers. Patients who smoke are six times more likely to develop this potentially fatal disease than patients who don’t smoke.


While gum disease is caused by bacteria, genetics do play a role in how susceptible a patient may be to developing the disease. Some people naturally have stronger immune systems than others and may notice less bleeding and inflammation from gingivitis or periodontitis. Genetics also affect how people process medications and can cause them to be more or less responsive to antibiotics or other dental treatments.

People who know they have a family history of periodontal disease should make sure to keep up with their routine dental care appointments and practice good oral hygiene at home to reduce the likelihood of developing gum disease. Brushing and flossing regularly will help remove plaque buildup on teeth and along the gum line, where harmful bacteria can hide and cause infection.

Certain Medications

Patients should also know that certain medications and medical conditions can increase the risk of developing gum disease. For example, some types of antidepressants cause dry mouth that can contribute to the development of gingivitis by speeding the growth of bacteria and making it harder for the body to fight it off. Patients who are taking these types of medication should talk to their dentist about how it can affect their oral health and what steps they can take to prevent gum disease.

Other medications, such as antihistamines and diuretics, can also contribute to dry mouth and weaken the body’s ability to fight off bacteria. This means that patients who have a medical condition or take daily medication should be especially vigilant about practicing good oral health routines and visiting the dentist for regular checkups and cleanings to ensure their mouth stays healthy.

Those with osteoporosis or rheumatoid arthritis may also be at an increased risk of developing gum disease because they often have impaired gums that bleed easily. Regular dental care visits can help these patients reduce their risk of developing gum disease. Early diagnosis and treatment can help reduce the amount of tissue that’s lost as a result of gum disease, while regular periodontal cleanings can help reduce the risk of permanent damage to the gums and surrounding teeth.

Hormonal Changes

Hormones play an important role in the body, including your teeth and gums. Unfortunately, hormonal changes during puberty and menopause can cause your gums to become inflamed. These changes can lead to gum disease and tooth loss.

Many women experience hormonal changes while pregnant. The hormones progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) can slow down the blood flow to the gums and cause gingivitis. This is a result of increased levels of prostaglandin hormone, which inflames and irritates the gum tissues. To combat this, rinse your mouth with salt water or use an alcohol-free mouthwash after meals. If bleeding occurs, use a soft-bristled toothbrush when you brush to reduce irritation to the gums.

If you’re experiencing any hormonal changes that affect your teeth and gums, talk to your dentist about it.

If you want to learn more about gum disease, contact Dental Arts of Boston at (617) 266-0441 today to book an appointment with Boston Dentist. Our team can offer guidance and make product recommendations for your unique smile.



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