Causes of Periodontal Disease

The main cause of periodontal infections is bacteria. There can be as many as 700 different types of bacteria in your mouth. Bacteria accumulate on your teeth by forming a sticky, white film called “plaque”. Plaque can be composed of many different kinds of bacteria. When plaque is not removed adequately during brushing, it will continue to form and grow on your teeth and cause infection in your gums and bone. Some patients are more susceptible to this type of infection. Up to 30% of the population may be genetically susceptible. Despite aggressive oral care habits, these people may be six times more likely to develop periodontal disease. Approximately 50% of the variance of disease activity is due to genetics.

There are also other environmental and systemic health factors that can influence how the infection can progress.

Smoking/Tobacco Use

Recent studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease. Smokers have been found to be 4 times more likely to have periodontal disease than non-smokers.

Clenching or Grinding Your Teeth

Clenching or grinding your teeth can put excessive forces on the supporting tissues of the teeth and can increase the rate at which pre-existing diseased periodontal tissues are destroyed.


People with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without diabetes. Periodontal disease is considered on of the complications of uncontrolled diabetes. Recent research also suggests that periodontal disease can influence a patient’s diabetic control. Treatment of periodontal disease may also help a patient’s diabetic control.


Research has shown that people under stress are at greater risk for developing periodontal disease. Stress can make it more difficult for the body to fight off infection. Financial strain has been shown to be the most important stressor influencing periodontal disease.

Pregnancy and Puberty

During pregnancy, puberty or menopause, your body experiences hormonal changes which can affect many of the tissues in your body, including your gums. These conditions make you more susceptible to gum disease. Additionally, recent studies suggest that pregnant women with gum disease are seven times more likely to deliver preterm, low birth weight babies.


Certain medications can influence the health of your gum tissue. It is important for you to provide your dental care provider with all of the medications you are taking.