Jan 23, 2024 - minute readminutes read

Gum Disease Definition and Causes

‘Periodontal’ literally means ‘around the teeth’, so ‘periodontal disease’ refers to infections in the structures around the teeth, including the gums, ligaments, and bones.


Periodontal disease occurs when these parts of the mouth are infected with bacteria, leading to swollen and bleeding gums. If left untreated, the infection can spread and may even lead to tooth loss.

The earliest stage of periodontal disease is known as gingivitis, and it is very common.

Gingivitis is usually caused by poor oral care: if teeth are not cleaned properly, then bacteria can build up on the surface and create plaque. If plaque is not removed, it turns into tartar, leading to inflammation of the gums.

Other possible causes of gum disease include:

  • An unhealthy diet
  • Smoking
  • Stress
  • Orthodontic treatments
  • Other health issues, such as diabetes or cancer

To protect yourself against periodontal disease, make sure that you stick to an excellent daily oral care routine, and see your dental professional for a check-up at least once a year.

Contact your dentist straight away if you experience bleeding, red or swollen gums, sensitivity, or persistent bad breath, as these can all be early signs of gum disease.

Read our tips on how to keep your oral and general health optimal

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