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What causes Periodontal Disease?

In most cases, gum disease and periodontitis are caused by bacterial plaque, which forms on the teeth when starches and sugars from food interact with the bacteria in our mouths.

When plaque isn’t regularly removed it builds upon the teeth and hardens to form tartar.

When these build-ups become trapped under the gums, the bacteria cause infection, inflammation, disease and eventually (if left untreated) periodontitis.

There are, however, a number of other causes and risk factors, which can make you more susceptible to developing gum disease and periodontitis. They are:

Periodontal disease - Al-Fa Perio Clinic

1. Smoking

Smokers are significantly more likely to develop periodontitis than non-smokers.

Smoking severely interferes with the body’s immune system, which means that when an infection is present (anywhere in the body), it’s more difficult for a smoker to fight it off.

So, when it comes to gum disease, it’s far more likely that it will advance into periodontitis in a smoker because, even if it is caught and treated, the immune system may not be effective enough to fight it off and stop it from developing.

On top of that, periodontal treatments (such as gum or bone grafts and tooth implants) are less successful in smokers than in non-smokers, again because of their ability to heal is impaired.

Periodontitis also progresses much faster in smokers, with more rapid tooth loss.


2. Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes can also make people more susceptible to gum disease.

For example, during pregnancy, puberty, menopause and monthly menstruation, shifts in the balance of hormones can make gums more sensitive.

This often makes it easier for gingivitis to develop.

3. Illness

The condition of the gums can also be affected by certain illnesses and diseases, which interfere with the immune system.

Terrible diseases such as cancer and HIV seriously affect the body’s ability to fight off infection, which can allow gingivitis to develop and advance.

Patients with diabetes are also at a higher risk of developing infections because it affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar.

High levels of blood sugar can lead to more sugar in the saliva, creating an ideal breeding ground for bacteria in the mouth.

Diabetes patients are also at a higher risk of cavities for this reason.

Periodontal Disease - Al-Fa Perio Clinic

4. Medication

Certain medications can also affect oral health. Some medications reduce the flow of saliva, which has a protective effect on teeth and gums (when it isn’t too high in the sugar of course!). Meanwhile, there are other drugs, such as the anticonvulsant medication Dilantin and the anti-angina drug Procardia, which can cause abnormal growth of gum tissue.

5. Family history

Genetics also has a part to play when it comes to gum disease, so if there is a family history of dental disease, this can be a contributing factor for the development of periodontitis.

6. Preventing Periodontal Disease is as Good as a Cure

Of course, many of these causes and risk factors are out of our control.

However, there are still measures we can take to combat the threat of gum disease.

The first one is the most important one.

Exercise good oral hygiene. Whether you’re ill, going through a hormonal change or you’re on medication, looking after your teeth and gums will always give you a better chance of staving off infection.

Brushing your teeth twice a day and flossing at least once a day is absolutely vital.

It’s also important to schedule and keep regular check-ups with your dentist.

And, finally, don’t smoke.

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Periodontal disease - Al-Fa Perio Clinic