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What are the Causes of Gum Infection?

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  • Written By: T. Flanagan
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 25 October 2016
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There are a number of causes of gum infection. Inadequate dental care is by far the most common. Other causes include mouth trauma, tobacco use, hormone fluctuations, certain medications, genetics and some illnesses.

People's mouths are full of bacteria in the form of plaque, an invisible sticky film that naturally occurs on teeth and gums. When plaque is not regularly removed with brushing and flossing, the bacteria can irritate and damage the gums. Left undisturbed, plaque will turn into tartar, a hard buildup on teeth that requires a dental procedure to remove. Tartar attacks the soft tissues of the mouth, leading to gingivitis or the more severe periodontal disease. An infection that progresses that far might destroy the supporting bone that holds the teeth in the gums.

Mouth trauma can be caused by a dental procedure, rough brushing or forceful tooth picking. This trauma can lead to gum inflammation or infection. Additionally, a tooth cavity that is left untreated for too long might cause a very painful gum infection to develop called an abscess.

Smoking is another significant cause of gum infection and the development of gum disease. Habitual tobacco use causes bone loss, reduces saliva levels, impedes the flow of blood and damages the immune system. Furthermore, the heat and the smoke can irritate delicate mouth tissue. Treatments for gum infection and gum disease are also less effective in tobacco users.

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During pregnancy, women are more prone to gum infections because of hormone fluctuations that cause the gums to react differently to bacteria. The same effect is true of puberty and menopause. Similarly, certain medications, such as oral contraceptives, steroids, cancer therapy drugs, anti-depressants, heart medications and anti-epilepsy drugs, often lead to gum infections because they alter natural hormone levels.

A weak immune system will often lead to a gum infection. This could be caused by a nutritional deficiency from a poor diet or by a more serious illness. Gum infections develop when the body cannot effectively fight off infection.

Some people are simply more prone than others to developing gum infections, even with proper dental care. There is a genetic component to gum disease. Therefore, people who have a family history of gum infections need to be especially vigilant about routine oral hygiene and regular trips to the dentist.

The symptoms of gum infections include gum swelling and bleeding, red gums, bad breath, pain, pus between the teeth and in the gums and changes in teeth, including loose teeth. Treatment depends on the severity of the infection. Home remedies might suffice for gum irritations, but gum infections require a trip to the dentist.

Treatments for gum infections might involve cleaning, antibiotics, dental procedures such as pocket reduction or gum regeneration or, in severe cases, surgery. It is important for one to visit the dentist right away if a gum infection is suspected. Preventative steps such as regular flossing and brushing as well as frequent professional cleanings are very effective in combating gum disease.

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Discuss this Article

Ocelot60
Post 3

@spotiche5- You could have an infection in your gums, or your symptoms could be warning signs of more serious problems to come. You should visit a dentist to find out why your gums are bleeding and what treatment options are available to you.

Spotiche5
Post 2

Do you always have pain when you have a gum infection? I am having some problems with gum bleeding, but I don't have pain. Could this still be a sign of an infection?

Heavanet
Post 1

Drinking too many sugary drinks each day also leads to poor oral health and gum infections. If you consume these types of beverages frequently, it is a good idea to brush your teeth and use a mouth wash several times daily.

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