As you may be aware, gum disease such as gingivitis and periodontitis is usually caused by poor oral hygiene and dental neglect. When tiny particles of food become trapped in the small “pocket” just beneath the gum line, destructive bacteria find an abundant source of nourishment.
This bacteria forms a sticky film called plaque or calculus. When the body’s immune system attacks this bacteria, the result is inflammation. Once the antibodies are turned loose however, they are like an army out of control, causing a great deal of collateral damage in the form of receding gums and deterioration of the underlying bone structure (known as the alveolar bone).
The result; unsightly brown or black build-up, painful, bleeding gums and ultimately, the loss of teeth.
Sometimes however, gum disease is more likely to develop in response to some other disorder that may be far removed from the teeth and gums.
It is well known, for instance that smokers are up to 700% more likely to develop gum disease because of a compromised immune system and the reduction of bacteria-inhibiting oxygen in the mouth.
Diabetics whose disease is poorly controlled are much more susceptible to gum disease, partially because of a compromised immune system and partially due to blood sugar issues. Such individuals are more prone to infections in general and are slow to heal from injuries.
For this reason, it is not surprising that HIV-positive people are also more prone to developing gum disease.
It is estimated that as many as half of people in the U.S., who for economic and other reasons suffer the highest rates of stress in the industrialized world, suffer from gum disease. The connection may not seem apparent at first glance, but the fact is that stress produces excess hormones, especially estrogen in women. It is not actually the stress, but the excess hormones that are responsible in this case; pubescent girls are especially susceptible during menstruation, as are older women who are pregnant or taking contraceptive pills.
Malnutrition is a common cause of gum disease as British sailors in the 18th century discovered when they came down with scurvy. Fortunately, this is easily corrected with proper nutrition and vitamin supplements.
Finally, certain medications can have an effect on whether or not someone will develop gum disease. Steroids, medication for hypertension, anti-seizure drugs such as Dilantin and Tegritol, tetracycline and many drugs used for the treatment of cancer all play a role.