Top 11 Causes of Gum Disease in Adults and How To Combat Them

Know the warning signs of gum disease

Early Signs of Gum Disease

Macy brushed her teeth with an electric toothbrush and flossed before bed. But when she looked in the mirror the next morning, she still saw gums that were puffy, red, and sore. Macy called her dentist to make an appointment right away because she had heard these symptoms could lead to gum disease and receding gums if left untreated.

Gum disease, or periodontitis, is a chronic infection of the gum tissue surrounding the teeth. It can lead to tooth loss, bone loss, and potentially life-threatening health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and pneumonia.

Gum disease can affect anyone, but some risk factors increase your probability of developing the condition. Here are some of the most common contributing factors and how to combat them:

1. Plaque Buildup

Over time, sticky plaque (food debris and bacteria), if not properly removed, turns into tartar buildup around the gumline and teeth.This tartar buildup continues to accumulate and can lead to gum recession if left untreated.

One way to prevent this is by practicing great oral hygiene. It’s especially important to brush twice daily for two minutes each time and floss at least once a day. Never skip the floss! Flossing removes plaque and food particles from the spaces between teeth that a toothbrush simply cannot reach.

2. Crooked Teeth

Crooked teeth are perfect places for bacteria to hide along the gumline and cause damage. Straightening your teeth won’t just give you a more beautiful smile, it will also help you improve your home oral care because your teeth will be easier to clean.

3. Damaged Dental Restorations

Damaged fillings can allow bacteria underneath the restoration where your toothbrush cannot reach, causing tooth decay. Likewise, ill-fitting crowns and bridges will not properly protect the teeth and gums underneath from harboring harmful bacteria. Always replace compromised dental work as soon as possible so you can go on with a healthy smile!

4. Certain Medications

Certain medications may contribute to gum disease because of their effects on oral health. This includes medications for high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, and arthritis, as well as chemotherapy. Make sure you tell your dentist if you are on any of these medications. Also tell your doctor if you or your dentist see signs of gum disease so that your physician can adjust your medicines as needed and keep health conditions as controlled as possible.

5. Genetic Factors

Some people are simply more predisposed to gum disease than others even without any other underlying causes. This is why if a family member has had gum issues in the past, it is worth letting your dentist know so that they can monitor any changes in gum attachment closely.

This doesn’t mean you’re in a hopeless situation—the opposite is true! If you know you are genetically predisposed to gum disease, you can use this information to empower yourself with better prevention.

6. Smoking and Tobacco Use

People who smoke have an increased risk of getting periodontal (gum) disease because smoking interferes with the body’s natural healing abilities, leaving teeth and gums vulnerable to infection. Nicotine also constricts small oral blood vessels and interferes with your gum tissue’s reception of needed oxygen and nutrients. Cessation of tobacco use is ideal, but at the very least, you should always attend your preventive cleaning appointments so your dentist can note any gum tissue changes as early as possible.

7. Dry Mouth

Tissues in the mouth that aren’t well moisturized by saliva are very susceptible to infection, including gum disease. If you have a condition that causes dry mouth, it’s important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. But dry mouth isn’t always caused by dehydration. It can also be caused by lack of saliva, medications, or certain diseases. Your dentist can also recommend prescription or over-the-counter products to encourage healthy saliva flow. 

8. Diabetes

People who have diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease, and the two conditions seem to have a correlative relationship. If you are diabetic, be extra diligent about brushing twice a day and flossing daily to remove plaque buildup. Also make sure you tell your dentist if you have diabetes, and tell your doctor if you have been diagnosed with periodontitis (gum disease). Well-controlled diabetes is a huge help in preventing and stabilizing gum disease progression.

9. Stress

When you are stressed, your body produces cortisol. Cortisol inhibits the immune system, which includes gum defense systems. So if your immune system is not functioning at 100%, it can make you more likely to develop gum disease.

You can alleviate stress from multiple angles. Removing stressful factors from your life, practicing stress-relieving techniques, such as meditation and yoga, and discussing stress management with your doctor are all helpful.

10. Excessive Alcohol

Consuming too much alcohol can also make you more susceptible to developing gum disease. An excessive amount of alcohol makes our bodies have a hard time fighting off infections. It also dehydrates your mouth, which means your natural saliva can’t effectively help sweep away acidic bacteria and debris from your teeth and gums. Talk to your doctor and dentist about what a healthy amount of alcohol is, or consider quitting altogether. 

11. Diet

A diet high in sugar increases the risk of periodontal disease because it provides food for harmful bacteria that cling to teeth and gums. Lack of proper nutrients and minerals from your food also raises your risk. Make sure you are eating a diet high in vegetables, complex carbs, healthy fats, and healthy proteins.

Let us help you prevent periodontal disease.

Gum disease is unfortunately a common affliction, but it’s not inevitable. You can take preventive measures such as visiting your dental practice regularly and addressing stress, lifestyle, or underlying health conditions. If you’re looking for an experienced dental practice in New Bern, North Carolina, we would love to hear from you! We offer personalized care and specialize in treating the root causes of gum disease, including tartar buildup and misaligned teeth. Let us help keep your mouth healthy so your smile will last a lifetime.