Brushing regularly, dental checkups twice a year, and avoiding sugar are all excellent and essential steps to protect your teeth and gums. That doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods when it comes to gum disease, though. There are several factors that can increase your risk, many of which you may not have been aware of. To help you know what to avoid or how you can protect your dental health, our family dentist in Cary is sharing six common causes of gum disease that you may not have been aware of.


Tobacco and Smoking

We all know how bad smoking and chewing tobacco are for our health, damaging our lungs and putting us at higher risk for cancer, stroke, and other illness. They are also leading causes of gum disease and tooth loss for three reasons:

  1. Tobacco blocks the normal function and healing abilities of gum tissue, leaving you prone to infection.
  2. It affects saliva production, and when your mouth is dry, plaque forms and adheres more easily to your teeth, which then attracts more bacteria.
  3. Constant exposure to the toxins and chemicals in tobacco can irritate your gums which can cause teeth to loosen in the gums.

Prescription Medication

While the antibiotic Tetracycline can cause teeth to take on a yellow or brown color, it doesn’t damage the teeth. However, several medications cause dry mouth, which, as we mentioned above, can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.

Chronic dry mouth caused by long-term medication can increase bacteria in the mouth as well as acidity, both of which damage teeth and gums. Medications that cause this issue include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Antihistimines used for allergies and sinus issues
  • Antihypertensives used to treat blood pressure
  • Chemotherapy
  • Immune suppressants

If you’re concerned about whether any prescribed medication could harm your teeth, it’s important to talk to your doctor to see what the best option for you is.


Once seen as a better alternative to smoking, studies are showing that vaping is actually just as harmful to your gum health as smoking. A study at Ohio State University found that those who vaped daily had significantly higher infection-causing bacteria in their mouth than even those who smoke cigarettes. Researchers believe that the reason for this is that the heated, pressurized liquids used in vaping cartridges can transform the mouth into a bacteria-friendly environment.

Crowded or Crooked Teeth

If your teeth overlap, are crowded, or are crooked, this is more than a cosmetic issue, it can actually be a risk factor for gum disease. When teeth are too cramped, it may be difficult to reach plaque and bacteria with floss or a brush, and if teeth are misaligned or even rotated, there may be spaces between the teeth where buildup can occur. While taking extra care to brush and floss is important, if you struggle to floss and brush your teeth, you may find dental aligners like Invisalign® would be beneficial.

Genetics Play a Role in Gum Health

Many oral conditions, including gum disease, periodontal disease, and even a greater susceptibility to cavities are genetic, according to the American Dental Association. There isn’t a predictive test to see who is more susceptible, but among families with a consistent inheritance of tooth decay and gum disease, there may be issues related to the structure of enamel proteins, saliva quality, and immune defense mechanisms.

Schedule an Appointment with Our Dentist in Cary

From avoidable risk like smoking to unavoidable risk like genetics, there are several factors that play a role in whether or not a person is more likely to have gum problems. It’s important to note that even if someone has crowded teeth or a family history of dental problems, they aren’t destined to have gum disease. It just means that it’s that much more important to maintain healthy routines and work with your dentist to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

If you need to make a dental appointment for a checkup or you have concerns about the state of your teeth and gums, we are here to help! Give our dentist office in Cary a call at (919) 467-2203 or reach out to our Holly Springs dentist office at (919) 600-6262 and you can also use a contact form to request an appointment.