Gum Diseases: Types, Causes & Symptoms

by Vanya Sharma last updated -

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Healthy gums play a major role not only for your dental health but for your overall health as well. Gum diseases may cause irritation, redness, and inflammation of the gums, which is very painful for individuals experiencing it. It is important to take care of your gums and teeth regularly.

Types of Gum Diseases

The cause of most gum diseases is the presence of bacterial plaque. This plaque is a sticky and colorless film that easily attaches itself to the teeth. Gum diseases can be divided into two types, namely gingivitis and periodontitis. If left untreated for a long time, these may cause major damage to the bones and soft tissues that support our teeth.

  • Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease where the gums become swollen, red, and may bleed easily.
  • Generally, gingivitis makes its way into the least orally hygiene mouths.
  • Untreated gingivitis leads to periodontitis.
  • The incidence of periodontitis is high in comparison to gingivitis.

According to Merchant, et al, 2002, the incidence of periodontitis is very high. It is estimated that 1 in 3 people in the United States suffers from periodontitis. On the other hand, gingivitis is less prevalent, with an incidence of 5%-15% of the population suffering from the disease.

Gum disease develops when plaque is allowed to build up and affect the gum line. These films of plaques are formed by bacteria when they mix with the mucus and other particles present in the mouth. If this plaque is left untreated for a long duration it forms ‘tartar’. Most gum diseases may not show up until a person is in the age group above 30 or 40. According to the Ontario Dental Hygienists’ Association (ODHA), 75% of adults over the age of 30 may suffer from gum diseases. It is one of the most common diseases for people all over the world.


Causes of Gum Diseases

Gum diseases can occur for many reasons, bacterial infections being the most common. Some of the other reasons include the following.

Poor Oral Hygiene

In case brushing and flossing are not done regularly, gum disease can find a perfect place to develop.

Wrong Brushing Techniques

In the quest to keep their teeth healthy, people sometimes overdo the brushing of their teeth. Overly vigorous brushing of teeth might actually cause damage to the gums since they are very soft and sensitive. There are many people among us who use the back and forth styles of brushing, which can irritate and damage the gums, causing a recession in the gum line, as well as increasing the frequency of bleeding gums.

Chancre Sores or Mouth Ulcers

Mouth ulcers can develop anywhere inside the mouth. Many times, they appear on the gums as well. They appear with red edges and a whitish center. Sores could be either viral or bacterial in origin. These sores could worsen the infection in your gums.


Swollen and painful, bleeding gums could be an unpleasant side effect of chemotherapy. People undergoing chemotherapy may suffer from stomatitis which gives rise to painful sores and ulcers in the mouth and on the gums.


Gum problems are experienced by some women during times such as puberty, menstruation, menopause, and pregnancy. Blood flow to the gums is increased during puberty, causing them to become sensitive, red, and swollen. This type of problem-related to the gums might subside after the period begins. Gingivitis is likely to happen in the second or third month of pregnancy and can continue until the eighth month. During this phase, the gums become red, swollen, and might even bleed.

Smoking and Tobacco

Using cigarette and tobacco products is extremely bad for your gums. A study in the Swedish army revealed that soldiers who smoked were more susceptible to oral diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis than those who did not. Smoking in this study was also associated with bone loss.


Gum disease may also develop due to certain illnesses such as diabetes or a family history of dental diseases.

Signs and Symptoms

Look for signs and symptoms before the gum disease becomes highly troublesome or medically serious. Some of the noticeable signs of a progressive gum disease include:

  • Swollen, red, or tender gums
  • Bleeding in the gums
  • Receding gums
  • Acute pain caused while chewing
  • The teeth may appear to be long and can become loose and sensitive to heat and cold.

Make sure you visit your dentist whenever you see any of these symptoms. Symptoms that persist for a long time will require serious attention.

About the Author

Vanya is a passionate writer with interest in the field of health, nutrition, culture, and lifestyle. She wants to spread awareness about mental health and how to tackle it. Apart from work, she spends her time reading books, watching movies, listening to music, and sometimes just collecting her thoughts. One may often find her interacting with nature and its various aspects.

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