What Causes Gum Disease

It is estimated that approximately 15 percent of all adults between the ages of 21 and 50 years have some form of gum disease. For adults over the age of 50, the percentage is even higher- closer to 30 percent. Gum disease is also a combination disease of the gums, bone and teeth.

What causes gum disease? This is a question with a variety of different answers. Those professionals in the business of teeth believe that gum disease is caused by a number of different factors. Let us take a look at each one.


Plaque is a terrible offender of teeth and gums. Plaque is basically a soft and sticky form of bacteria that clings to the teeth and is constantly forming on the teeth all of the time. For all intents and purposes, plaque is invisible but when it is not brushed away on a consistent basis, it begins to build up on the teeth where the gum line is and to the eye it looks like a thick, chalky white substance that then hardens on the teeth. This excess of bacteria then serves to irritate the gum tissues that are in place to support the teeth.

Once plaque builds up it is referred to as tartar. Tartar is an advanced form of plaque that is detrimental to the teeth and gums. The bacteria from tartar can lead to sore, red, swollen and bleeding gums, pockets of inflammation and infection that can destroy tissue. While brushing and flossing on a regular basis is an essential part of oral hygiene, visiting the dentist on a regular basis to have the teeth cleaned is also important. You should have your teeth professionally cleaned at least once every six months.


It may come as a surprise to some people that doctors cite smoking as a cause of gum disease. Smoking ushers in a plethora of teeth problems including deep pockets developing at the base of teeth, tartar (or calculus) build-up, infection, bone loss, and advanced stage gum disease.

Smoking is detrimental to the bodys ability to heal itself and therefore encourages the development of gum disease as opposed to fighting it. Smoking decreases the amount of saliva secreted by the mouth and it restricts the flow of blood, not to mention the fact that it wreaks havoc with the immune system. Nicotine from cigarettes causes changes in blood vessels and the delicate tissues of the mouth are not helped by the constant assault of smoke and heat.

Other Causes

Gum disease can be caused by a variety of dental problems such as fillings that are defective, teeth that are in need of straightening, bridges or dentures that do not fit in the mouth properly and habits that develop over time such as grinding of the teeth. Not only does grinding of the teeth cause gum disease but it can also cause the teeth to be worn down to the point where the tooth will need to be replaced with a false one. Most people grind their teeth at night due to stress and dentists can fit these patients with a special mouthpiece to decrease the potential of damage to the teeth.