Gum disease is caused by plaque – a tacky substance, full of bacteria which forms on the teeth after eating or drinking when the naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth mix with microscopic bits of food and saliva. Over time, plaque builds up on teeth, and some of those bacteria are harmful to the gums.
Avoiding gum disease can be easy with good dental habits and regular check-ups, and by being aware of the major causes:
Poor Dental Hygiene
The number one cause of gum disease is poor dental hygiene. Plaque can be removed simply by practicing good dental habits including brushing and flossing your teeth and regularly seeing the dentist and hygienist. However, if not taken proper care of plaque can harden to form a substance called tartar which adheres even more strongly to the teeth than plaque. It can usually only be eradicated by the dentist or a dental hygienist.
A poor diet full of sugary foods and refined carbohydrates is known to encourage the build-up of plaque. This is because the bacteria in plaque uses the energy in such foods to thrive and produce acid while they’re at it – a double whammy for your teeth.
Gum disease is more prevalent in older people. By eating and drinking healthily and taking good care of your teeth as you age, it will help ensure you have the best chance of keeping healthy teeth and gums. If you have a history of gum disease in your family, it’s important to take extra care.
Certain health issues such as diabetes, malnutrition, stress or a weakened immune system can further be causes of damage to the gums. Healthy gums are pink, firm and hold the teeth securely, but gum disease is an increasingly common condition, thought to affect over 50% of UK adults.
There may be no symptoms – which is why frequent dental check-ups are so very important – by common signifiers involve gums bleeding, being inflamed, painful or infected. This earlier stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis, and untreated it can progress to periodontitis which affects tissues and bone supporting the teeth, leading to the tooth-loss as well as bad breath, an unpleasant taste and even painful abscesses.