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Surprising Causes of Gum Disease: Assessing Your Risk

Some of the causes of gum disease may surprise you.  Beyond the  main cause (plaque or biofilm), there are many conditions that make getting gum disease more likely and treating it more difficult.   

Gum Disease Symptoms

Plaque is the main culprit

Dental plaque that grows on your teeth causes gingivitis and more severe types of gum disease.

When plaque is not removed, your gums become swollen and bleed easily.

In other words, inflammation happens and the destructive gum disease process begins.

Inflammation is the body's response to harmful bacteria in dental plaque.  It is a protective response by your body that is meant to get your attention.  If mild inflammation is not treated becomes destructive to your gums and bone that support your teeth.

Gingivitis is completely reversible but should not be ignored because of the impact it has on your health.


Smoking makes getting gum disease more likely and almost impossible to completely reverse.

Here's why

  • Smoking dries your mouth without a normal amount of saliva, the bacteria in your mouth become more dangerous. Your saliva contains buffers that help neutralize bacteria.
  • Smoking impairs your circulation. Healthy blood circulation promotes  healing by delivering oxygen and nutrients to the injured area. Your gums will not heal as fast if you smoke.

If you smoke and have gum disease you should closely monitor your gums and will most likely need three or four dental cleanings per year.

Dry mouth

Many adults and some kids have a dry mouth.  The older you are the more likely you are to have this condition.  

Because saliva provides natural cleansing, those with less than adequate saliva tend to have more teeth and gum problems.  

Preventing gum disease and cavities becomes more difficult with a chronic dry mouth.  


Diabetes and gum disease are a unique combination. Each increases your risk for the other.

Inflammation from gum disease makes diabetes and pre diabetes more difficult to control.

The reverse is also true.  Diabetes puts you at a higher risk for gum disease and makes gum disease harder to control.

Gum disease is at least a risk factor if not a secondary diabetes cause. Treatment for gum disease is even more important for those with diabetes.

Because of the unique cause and effect of these two conditions, care for diabetes and dental care should go hand in hand.


Genetics can make you more likely to have gum disease. Genetics is a minor contributing factor.

Gum disease treatments have come a long way. If your parents or grandparents lost their teeth at an early age it was because there were no other treatment options available at that time.

You can absolutely overcome your genetics and prevent gum disease.

Dental check ups twice a year make it possible for issues to be diagnosed and treated before they become a threat to your health.


Prescription and OTC medications are both causes of dry mouth. A few prescription medicines can cause gum swelling.

If you are taking a prescription medication be sure to drink plenty of water. Remember, dry mouth is one of the causes of gum disease.

Biotene makes a line of products including toothpaste, mouthwash, and mouth spray that help improve dry mouth.


Stress has a profound impact on our health. Stress induced clenching or grinding of your teeth contributes to gum disease. Stress has other indirect effects on gum disease and your health in general.

Lack of preventative care

Dental calculus is the hard mineral deposits that form on your teeth between professional cleanings. 

If you haven't had your teeth checked and cleaned in awhile, you will have more of this stuff and as a result probably the beginnings of gum disease.  The longer it has been, the greater your risk.

Calculus or tarter irritates your gums and causes inflammation. Calculus is not one of the direct causes of gum disease but is a major contributing factor.

Since it is rough and forms near or even under the gum line, it constantly irritates the gum tissue and gum disease progresses.

Calculus is plaque that has mineralized. You can prevent it from forming on your teeth by brushing, flossing and having your teeth professionaly cleaned at least twice a year.

Gum Disease Symptoms

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