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Gum Disease - Cause

Gum disease is caused by the growth of bacteria on the teeth and gums. Bacteria are present in plaque, a clear, sticky substance your mouth produces. If plaque is not removed promptly, it builds up on the teeth.

  • The bacteria in plaque feed on sugars in the foods you eat and drink and produce poisons (toxins) and other chemicals.
  • The toxins irritate your gums, causing them to swell and bleed easily when brushed.
  • Plaque can harden into a mineral buildup called calculus or tartar, which further irritates the gums and causes them to pull away from your teeth.

While bacteria are the direct cause of gum disease, a number of other things also affect the health of your gums. You are more likely to have gum disease if:

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  • You smoke cigarettes or use spit tobacco.
  • Gum disease runs in your family.
  • You are a woman going through the hormonal changes caused by puberty, menopause, or pregnancy.
  • You take certain medicines, such as birth control pills, antidepressants, or some heart medicines.
  • You have a condition that makes it harder for your body to fight infection, such as:
    • Uncontrolled diabetes, AIDS, or leukemia.
    • A high level of stress.
    • A diet low in nutrients.
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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: August 05, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

Number of Days Per Week I Floss

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Good
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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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