The leading cause of gum disease is tartar accumulation. When we practice oral hygiene, any plaque that is left behind after brushing and flossing will harden once exposed to calculus. If people do not practice proper oral hygiene and/or skip routine dental cleanings, they have a greatly increased risk of developing periodontal disease.
The reason tartar is problematic is the fact that this substance accumulates at the gum line. Since tartar is full of bacteria, it is very irritating to the gums. In fact, the gingiva will recede from teeth as an inflammatory response to irritation. Unfortunately, gum recession makes the periodontal disease worse. This is because a receding gum line creates a new surface area for tartar to cling. As tartar builds up and as the gums recede further, more of the tooth’s root is exposed to oral bacteria and debris.
Beyond inadequate oral hygiene and tartar accumulation contributing to gum disease, there are other factors that might increase one’s risk of developing this condition. Hormonal fluctuations such as those that occur during pregnancy or menopause can increase the risk for gum disease because hormones affect blood flow to all soft tissue, including the gums. When the gums’ blood flow is increased, they are more easily irritated. This is why pregnant women and others undergoing hormonal changes should practice vigilant oral hygiene.