Gum disease is caused by the growth of bacteria on the teeth and gums. Bacteria are present in Reference plaque Opens New Window, a clear, sticky substance your mouth produces. If plaque is not removed promptly, it builds up on the teeth.
- The bacteria in plaque feed on sugars in the foods you eat and drink and produce poisons (toxins) and other chemicals.
- The toxins irritate your gums, causing them to swell and bleed easily when brushed.
- Plaque can harden into a mineral buildup called calculus or tartar, which further irritates the gums and causes them to pull away from your teeth.
While bacteria are the direct cause of gum disease, a number of other things also affect the health of your gums. You are more likely to have gum disease if:
- You smoke cigarettes or use spit tobacco.
- Gum disease runs in your family.
- You are a woman going through the hormonal changes caused by puberty, menopause, or pregnancy.
- You take certain medicines, such as birth control pills, antidepressants, or some heart medicines.
- You have a condition that makes it harder for your body to fight infection, such as:
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference August 5, 2011|
|Medical Review:||Reference Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Reference Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Reference Steven K. Patterson, BS, DDS, MPH - Dentistry