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Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, And Proven Treatments

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By , Doctor of Internal Medicine | MBBS, FCPS, MRCP

Last Updated on November 29th, 2023 / Published on October 9, 2023

Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, And Proven Treatments

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, isn’t a dental problem; it’s an emerging health crisis. Did you know that half of all US adults1 have some form of gum disease?

Having gum disease is not just about dealing with sore gums. The emotional and physical toll is immense. It can affect your well-being, confidence, and quality of life.

With the correct information and care, you can tackle periodontal disease. This blog dives deep into periodontal disease. It breaks down its causes, symptoms, and effective treatments.

What Exactly Is Periodontal Disease?

Periodontal disease is the infection and inflammation of the gums and bones around your teeth. Here’s how it develops:

When bacteria stay on your teeth for a long time,² they can form plaque. Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria. If not removed through regular brushing, it can harden and become calculus (or tartar).

The accumulation of plaque and calculus can promote the growth of harmful bacteria.2 This leads to gum swelling.

If not treated, the swelling can cause your body to react in a way that weakens the bone holding the teeth in place. This can further damage both teeth and gums. 

How Does Periodontal Disease Differ From Other Dental Issues?

Here’s a table that shows how different symptoms of other common dental problems compare to periodontal disease:

Dental problemDescriptionCommon symptoms
Periodontal diseaseGum infectionGum bleeding and swelling 
Dental CariesTooth infectionPain and sensitivity
Noma Sores in mouth/faceStarts with sore gums
Oral CancerMouth swellingRed sores on lips or inside mouth

Why Should You Care About Periodontal Disease?

Gum health affects your health. It causes inflammation and genetic changes. Together, these lead to many long-term health problems.

For example, a 2019 study3 links gum disease to:

What Causes Periodontal Disease?

Many dental, behavioral, and systemic factors cause periodontal disease. These include:

  • Poor oral hygiene.6 This allows plaque to build up and tartar to form.
  • Teeth grinding. This puts extra force on the teeth’s supporting tissues.
  • Tobacco use. Products like cigarettes and e-cigarettes7 can harm your gums.
  • Hormonal changes. These can occur during pregnancy, puberty, menopause, and menstruation. They can make gums more susceptible to inflammation.
  • Medications. Drugs, like antidepressants and some heart medicines, can affect gum health.
  • Diseases. Illnesses like cancer, HIV, and diabetes8 interfere with the immune system. This can lead to an uncontrolled inflammation response, which damages gums.
  • Diet and nutrition: Vitamin C deficiency can lead to poor gum health.
  • Obesity. A 2022 study9 links obesity to gum problems.
  • Dental implants. Incorrectly fitted dental implants can exert pressure on the gums. This can lead to inflammation. 
  • Other causes. Blood disorders and other inflammatory conditions can worsen gum disease.

Is Periodontal Disease Hereditary?

The genes you inherit10 can increase gum disease risk. Some genes can lead to a weak immune system.11 As a result, the body may not adequately defend against gum inflammation. This can lead to periodontal disease.

Is Periodontal Disease Contagious?

Periodontal disease isn’t contagious. But, the bacteria causing it can spread through saliva.12

Only some people who get the bacteria will develop gum disease, though. Many factors,13 as discussed, determine whether you will get periodontal disease.

Periodontal Disease Symptoms: How Do You Recognize Periodontal Disease?

Gum disease gets worse if ignored. This is why it’s vital to recognize it early.

Luckily, it progresses through stages. Each stage has its symptoms, which make it easy to recognize.

Here’s a summary of each stage:

Disease StagesFeatures
GingivitisGum inflammation14 is common. Patients notice bleeding during brushing and flossing.
Mild PeriodontitisEarly gum recession15 and pockets form.
Moderate PeriodontitisIncreased inflammation and bleeding. Patients also experience teeth loosening and temperature sensitivity.
Severe PeriodontitisAdvanced damage: intense sensitivity, pain while chewing, bad breath, and risk of tooth loss.16

Does Periodontal Disease Cause Bad Breath?

Periodontal disease can lead to bad breath (halitosis). A 2021 study17 found that over 58% of gum disease patients had bad breath.

This happens for two reasons:

Is Periodontal Disease Treatable?

Early stages of periodontal disease are reversible.

Here’s how you can combat it:

  1. Focus on Dental Hygiene to Reverse Periodontal Disease

Good oral hygiene prevents and reverses gum disease. A 156-participant study19 proved this. Healthy oral practices remove plaque and tartar. These are the root causes of periodontal disease.

Proven dental hygiene habits include:

  • Brushing twice daily
  • Flossing once daily
  • Using mouthwash. A study20 found that this can reduce inflammation and plaque buildup.
  • Deep cleaning by a dentist twice a year

  1. Use Fluoride Toothpastes to Treat Periodontal Disease

Some fluoride toothpastes contain Stannous fluoride. This prevents bacteria from sticking to teeth and growing.

As a result, these kinds of toothpaste can:

  1. Home Treatment and Remedies for Periodontal Disease Can Help

Some home remedies are research-proven to boost gum health. For example:

  • Garlic, a popular home remedy, contains polyphenols. Studies22 show this can improve gum health.
  • Propolis is another standard home treatment. Studies23 show it makes gum pockets smaller and helps symptoms.

  1. Medications for Periodontal Disease

Some medications can also treat periodontal disease. These include:

  • Antibiotics. Doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat gum infections. 
  • Probiotics. A review of studies24 showed these reduce gum inflammation and symptoms.


Taking care of your gums is crucial. It’s not just about maintaining your smile. Bad gum health can lead to issues with the heart and cause other chronic health conditions. 

Gum problems are not only due to poor dental hygiene. Many factors are responsible. For example, some people may have gum issues because of their family genes. 

So, brushing, flossing, and seeing your dentist regularly is vital. It’s about your whole health, not just your teeth.


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Written By
Azrung Fayaz

Doctor of Internal Medicine | MBBS, FCPS, MRCP
Written By

Doctor of Internal Medicine | MBBS, FCPS, MRCP
Azrung Fayaz is a Board-certified physician with 5+ years of experience working with trusted healthcare companies worldwide, such as Bicycle Health, Nectar Allergy, and NOVI Health.  He has authored more than 200+ articles and 10 international publications. His areas of expertise inlcude Health & Wellness, Weight loss, Nutrition, Mental Health, Joint Disease, Addiction (Opioid/Alcohol), Health-Tech, Medicine, Nursing, and Pharmacy.

The content provided on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Read More.

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