Gum disease is caused by an accumulation of plaque on the tooth surface at the junction between the tooth and the gum. The plaque hardens to form tartar, or calculus, on the teeth, and as it thickens, the gums start to recede, allowing pockets to form below the gum margin. As the condition progresses, the tissues below the gum margin become more susceptible to disease and destruction.
In addition to poor dental hygiene, other factors that may contribute to the development of gingivitis and gum disease include:
- Improper brushing technique
- Poorly fitting fillings and dental prostheses
- Smoking, which significantly increases the risk of gum disease
- Chronic ill-health (e.g. gum disease may be a symptom of coeliac disease, HIV/AIDS or cancer)
- Genetic factors
- Hormonal changes (e.g. menopause, pregnancy and puberty)
- Some prescribed medicines (including some heart drugs and antibiotics)
- Tooth grinding
- Diabetes (due to an increased risk of infection)
- Excessive consumption of sugar or alcohol
- Deficiency of key nutrients, including vitamins A, C and folic acid, and the minerals zinc, iron and calcium.