The Causes of Gum Disease

posted by Dr. Beau Beecher, DDS on 11/28/2022 in General

woman revealing inflamed gumline and teeth

Gum disease is a lesser known oral condition, however, experiencing it can be as uncomfortable and frustrating as a cavity. Fortunately, gum disease is easy to prevent. Learn the causes of gum disease and how to reduce your chances of experiencing it. 

What is Gum Disease?

When your gums or the tissue surrounding your teeth become infected, this is known as gum disease. Also known by the medical term, periodontal disease, it’s usually a painless condition which means it’s harder to detect. If you experience the following symptoms, talk to your dentist. Do not leave this issue untreated as it can result in a more severe inflammation known as gingivitis

Symptoms of Gum Disease:

  • Swollen, tender, red, or bleeding gums
  • Constant bad breath or halitosis
  • Loose permanent teeth
  • Receding gums
  • Changes in the way your teeth are biting down 
  • Changes in denture fit

What Causes Gum Disease?

Now that you know what gum disease is, here are five of the biggest culprits that lead to this common dental issue.

Plaque Buildup

The main cause of gum disease is plaque buildup. Plaque is a film of bacteria that forms on teeth. It is colorless and can be sticky. When you regularly brush your teeth, this harmful film is destroyed. However, if it continues to stay, the buildup can irritate your gums and lead to gum disease. 

Bad Dental Habits

If you go to sleep without brushing your teeth or flossing, you may be putting yourself at risk for cavities, tartar, and gum disease. Practicing good dental habits like brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing at least once, and using mouthwash can help you avoid serious dental problems. 

Smoking Cigarettes and Chewing Tobacco 

Smoking cigarettes and chewing tobacco have always been considered less than healthy lifestyle choices, but did you know they severely harm your gums? Smoking causes plaque and also diminishes your gums’ ability to heal from infections. Both issues can result in gum disease. 

Chewing tobacco limits the amount of saliva in your mouth, which is vital to clearing away food particles and bacteria. Without saliva to remove them from your mouth, these particles form plaque buildup, which you now know is the primary cause of gum disease.


Although you can make smart choices to prevent gum disease, unfortunately there are a few uncontrollable factors that can increase your risk. Genetics can affect your teeth, and can be a predictor of your chances of experiencing gum disease. If your parents, siblings, or other family members have gum disease, your chances of experiencing it increases too. To alleviate your chances, you and your dentist can work on prevention plans together. 

Medication Side Effects

If you take regular prescriptions or medications, it may be a good idea to check the side effects. Some medications can cause dry mouth or reduce saliva production, which means more bacteria is left behind in your mouth. If any of your medications list these as a side effect, discuss your options with your doctor and dentist. 

How to Prevent Gum Disease 

Fortunately, you can take smart steps to avoid gum disease. These three tips will help you prevent this condition.

Brush, Floss, and Use Mouthwash Regularly

Brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash can go a long way in keeping your mouth healthy. You can upgrade your brushing results by using an electric toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. An electric toothbrush has more power than a manual one and can help eliminate particles and plaque easily. Fluoride toothpaste can help kill bacteria and cavities that lead to gum disease.

Any food particles your toothbrush missed can be removed by flossing or using mouthwash. That’s why it’s important to do all three so your mouth is clean and free of bacteria.

Don’t Avoid Your Dentist

Although you can take steps to avoid gum disease, your dentist will be your best line of defense. That’s why it’s vital to schedule dentist appointments every six months. During your checkups your dentist can track the health of your teeth and gums, and will be on the lookout for symptoms of early gum disease.  

Avoid Gum Disease With a Kimball & Beecher Dentist

As you've now discovered, gum disease prevention is pretty straightforward. If you need a knowledgeable and friendly dentist to help keep your gums healthy, look no further than Kimball & Beecher. Our skilled dentists are renowned for creating a comfortable environment for first-time patients.

Reduce your chances of experiencing gum disease. Schedule an appointment with a Kimball & Beecher dentist today.

About The Author

Dr. Beau Beecher, DDS

Dr. Beau Beecher is the founder and CEO, of Kimball and Beecher Family Dentistry. Kimball and Beecher Family Dentistry is known for being a patient-centered practice that puts comfort and convenience first. Over 50,000 patients in Iowa cities travel miles to experience the high level of ... read more

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