What Causes Gum Disease?

Dec 16, 2022
What Causes Gum Disease?
Healthy gums are firm and light pink, so if yours are bright red, swollen, and squishy, you may have gum disease. Keep reading to discover what may have caused it and how you can restore your oral health.

Your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body — everything you eat and drink eventually goes through your digestive system and beyond. Likewise, bacteria in and around your teeth and gums can easily enter your bloodstream and wreak havoc on your overall health.

That’s why we’re passionate about preventing gum disease from progressing. At Anna M. Munné, DDS, PA & ASSOCIATES in the museum District of Houston, Texas, we specialize in diagnosing and treating all forms of periodontitis — gum disease

Here, Dr. Munné explains the common causes of gum disease and how she treats it to save oral health.

Stages of gum disease

Gum disease is progressive: It starts mild and develops into a serious oral health condition if left unchecked. 


The first sign that your gums are in trouble is bleeding. It may occur when you brush or floss your teeth and see a little pink in the sink when you spit and rinse. Biting into a crunchy apple may cause a little bleeding as well. Many mistakenly believe this is normal and blame it on brushing too vigorously, but the truth is, you’ve got an infection brewing in your gums.


The next stage, gingivitis, presents with swollen gums that appear red instead of light pink. They may even be painful. Bad breath often accompanies gingivitis and remains even after brushing. Gingivitis is treatable, but if you ignore it, it’ll continue progressing.


Untreated gingivitis turns into periodontitis. In its early form, periodontitis causes painful, red, bleeding gums and fosters plaque and tartar that lead to tooth decay. Moderate periodontitis ushers in new symptoms, such as receding gums that pull away from your teeth and cause them to become loose. Finally, advanced periodontitis leads to tooth loss and jawbone infection. 

Common causes of gum disease

You can prevent gum disease by diligently caring for your oral health and visiting us twice yearly for professional cleanings and checkups. It also helps to know what causes gum disease to avoid the most common culprits.

Plaque and tartar

If you skip daily brushing and flossing, you allow bacteria from the foods you’ve eaten throughout the day to build up on your teeth. They quickly form a thick, sticky film called plaque that covers your teeth and gums and sets the stage for gum disease. Over time, plaque hardens into tartar, which is more difficult to remove and requires our special dental tools and expertise.


Just because you eat three times a day doesn’t mean you’re well-fed. Your body — and your teeth and gums — require specific nutrients in specific amounts daily to perform well. Particularly, a diet deficient in vitamin C and high in carbs and sugar can lead to gum disease. 


Thanks to pharmaceutical advances, medications exist that improve the quality of life for millions of people living with chronic diseases. However, some have side effects that may impact oral health. Drugs that dry out your mouth create an environment where bacteria can spread easily and don’t get rinsed away when you swallow. Check with your doctor to find out if a different medication is possible.


Tobacco hinders your body’s healing ability and interferes with gum tissue cells. Whether you smoke it or chew it, the tobacco makes you more susceptible to gum disease and makes recovery from it more difficult.


Hormonal shifts have a ripple effect throughout your body, including your gums. Women’s monthly menstrual cycles are enough to make gums vulnerable to disease, and pregnancy is a well-known risk for gingivitis and periodontitis. 

Chronic illness

Anything that weakens your immune system puts your gums at risk, too. People with rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases often develop gum disease, too. About 22% of people with diabetes also have periodontitis.

Treating gum disease

Dr. Munné addresses gum disease with various treatments depending on your condition's severity. If you have a mild case that’s caught early, she may recommend antibiotics, root planing, and scaling to remove stubborn tartar. 

For more advanced cases, pocket reduction surgery, guided tissue regeneration, or bone and gum grafting may become necessary. Dr. Munné is also well-versed in the Pinhole® technique, where she makes tiny holes in your gums to stimulate new cell turnover and tissue regeneration.

Don’t let gum disease run rampant and ruin your oral health. Contact us today by calling our friendly staff or requesting an appointment using our online form.