What Causes Gum Disease?

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What Causes Gum Disease?

Periodontal disease, also called gum disease, is a bacterial infection of the gum tissue that surrounds your tooth roots. If you’re lax with your oral hygiene — failing to brush, floss, and get regular dental check-ups — you open the door for an infection to enter the tissue, become established there, and worsen over time. 

Despite our status as a first world country, in the United States, about 50% of adults over 30 have mild-to-severe symptoms of gum disease, and, by far, it’s the biggest cause of tooth loss.

At Manteca Dental Care in Manteca, California, Dr. Rick Van Tran and our staff make checking for gum disease a part of every routine checkup, and we encourage our patients to take their oral health seriously. What causes gum disease? Our team explains that here, and much more.

What causes gum disease and how does it progress?

Your gums play a major role in your oral health, providing stability for your teeth and allowing them to function without moving out of place. If the tissue becomes damaged, it can’t keep your teeth in place. This leads to loose teeth and tooth loss.

What leads to gum damage? If you don’t do a good job of brushing and flossing, bacteria in your mouth feed on the sugars and carbohydrates from food debris and build up into a sticky plaque. 

Bacteria also produce acid as a byproduct, which etches your tooth enamel and irritates your gums. This leads to gum redness, tenderness, and light bleeding when you brush. This early stage of gum disease is called gingivitis.

If you don’t eliminate gingivitis, the plaque hardens into tartar that extends below your gum line. Not only can you not brush the tartar away, but while it’s under the tissue, it causes even more inflammation. 

Gingivitis advances to periodontitis, where the bacteria start producing toxins. Your gums swell and turn a dusky red color. They also become painful when you eat, and the tissue begins to pull away from your tooth roots, creating deep pockets where tartar and bacteria continue to build up.

If you still don’t address the problem, your gums can pull completely away from your tooth roots, leaving them exposed. Your teeth become sensitive to hot and cold as the nerve is irritated, and the connective tissue holding your teeth in place weakens. Permanent teeth loosen and may even fall out. And the persistent infection destroys the bone tissue in your jaw beneath the root, a condition known as alveolar bone loss.

Who is at risk for gum disease?

Aside from poor dental habits, additional factors can put you at risk for gum disease:

  • Recreational drug use, including medical marijuana
  • Tobacco use in any form
  • Lack of necessary nutrients in your diet prevents tissue healing
  • Being overweight or obese stresses your cells, leading to high blood sugar levels
  • Hormonal changes, including pregnancy and perimenopause
  • Genetics
  • Medications with dry mouth as a side effect
  • Being immunocompromised
  • Certain diseases, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn's disease

If you have any of these risk factors, maintaining good oral hygiene becomes critical.

How can you treat gum disease?

How you treat gum disease depends on the seriousness of your problem.

Deep, professional dental cleaning

Dr. Tran performs a procedure called scaling and root planing. It removes all traces of plaque, tartar, and bacterial components. Scaling involves scraping the tartar and bacteria from your tooth surfaces with a dental instrument, including under your gum line. Root planing smooths your root surfaces, so bacteria have a harder time sticking to them. It also allows for proper healing.

Gum grafting

If your gums have receded from your teeth, our team may take tissue from the roof of your mouth and place it over damaged areas, allowing them to heal.

If you’re experiencing any of the signs of gum disease, your next stop should be Manteca Dental Care, so we can stop the process and restore your oral health. To learn more or to schedule an evaluation with Dr. Tran, give us a call at 209-823-9218 or book online today.