What Causes Gum Disease?

May 10, 2023

What Causes Gum Disease?

Gum disease is a serious oral health condition that can lead to bone and tooth loss if not treated effectively. What causes gum disease? Keep reading to find out.

Periodontal disease, also called gum disease, is a bacterial infection that progressively inflames and destroys the gum tissue. If your oral hygiene is lax — if you don’t regularly brush, floss, and get dental checkups — you open the door for the infection to become established and worsen over time. In the United States, about 50% of adults over 30 have mild to severe symptoms, and, by far, it’s the leading cause of tooth loss.

At Eric Klein DDS & AssociatesDr. Klein and his team diagnose and treat gum disease at their office in Norwalk, Connecticut. Understanding how gum disease develops can help you take measures to protect your oral health, including coming into the office for professional treatment.

The causes and progression of gum disease

Your gums are an important component of your oral health. They provide stability for your teeth, allowing them to function without moving out of place. Damaged gums can’t effectively support your teeth, which can lead to loose teeth and tooth loss.

If your dental health regimen is lax, bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugar from food debris, building up on the teeth and gums as a sticky plaque. The plaque irritates the gum tissue, leading to redness, tenderness, and gums that bleed when you brush. This early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis.

If you don’t address the gingivitis, the plaque can harden into tartar that reaches below the gum line, causing even more inflammation. Gingivitis turns into periodontitis, where the bacteria start producing toxins. The gums swell as a result, turning a darker red color. They also become painful when chewing and begin to recede from the tooth roots, creating pockets where tartar and bacteria continue to amass.

If you still don’t address the problem, the gums may pull completely away from the teeth, leaving the roots exposed. The teeth become sensitive to hot and cold, and the connective tissue holding the teeth in place weakens. Permanent teeth become loose and may even fall out. In addition, the persistent infection destroys the underlying bone tissue, a condition known as alveolar bone loss.

Spotting the early signs of gum disease

If your gums are healthy, they should be firm, pale pink, and fit tightly around the tooth roots. Signs of gingivitis include:

  • Swollen gums
  • Dark red gums
  • Gums that bleed with brushing and flossing
  • Bad breath
  • Receding gumline
  • Tenderness

If you notice any of these signs, schedule an appointment with Dr. Klein as soon as possible. The sooner you get professional care, the better your chances of reversing any damage from gingivitis and preventing it from becoming periodontitis.

Who is at risk from gum disease?

Aside from poor oral hygiene, additional factors can put you at risk for gum disease:

  • Recreational drug use, including medical marijuana
  • Any form of tobacco use
  • A poor diet: Lack of nutrients prevents tissue healing
  • Obesity: stresses cells and can lead to high blood sugar levels
  • Hormonal changes, including pregnancy and perimenopause
  • Genetics
  • Medications that cause dry mouth
  • Being immunocompromised
  • Certain diseases, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease (GI inflammation)

If you have any of these risk factors, proper oral hygiene, including getting professional dental cleanings twice a year, becomes critical.

Treating gum disease

Dr. Klein addresses gum disease with a couple of different methods.

Deep, professional dental cleaning

Dr. Klein uses a procedure called scaling and root planing to remove all traces of plaque, tartar, and bacterial components. Scaling involves scraping the tartar and bacteria from tooth surfaces, as well as from under the gumline. Root planing smooths the root surfaces, discouraging further buildup and allowing for proper healing.

Gum grafting

If your gums have receded, the team may take tissue from one area of your mouth (usually the roof) and place it over exposed areas where the gums have been damaged.

Are your gums swollen or tender? Haven’t had a professional check-up in awhile? It’s time to come into Eric Klein DDS & Associates to ensure your mouth is as healthy as it can be. Give the office a call at 203-849-8633, or book online with us today.