Gingivitis is considered to be a bacterial infection of the gums. The exact reason why gingivitis develops has not been proven, but several theories exist.
- For gingivitis to develop, plaque must accumulate in the areas between the teeth. This plaque contains large numbers of bacteria thought to be responsible for gingivitis. But it is not simply plaque that causes gingivitis. Almost everyone has plaque on their teeth, but only a few develop gingivitis.
- It is usually necessary for the person to have an underlying illness or take a particular medication that renders their immune system susceptible to gingivitis. For example, people with leukemia and Wegener's granulomatosis can have changes in the blood vessels of their gums that allow gingivitis to develop. Other people with diabetes, Addison disease, HIV, and other immune system diseases have weaker ability to fight bacteria invading the gums. Persons with Sjögren's syndrome have chronic dryness of the mouth that predisposes them to develop gingivitis.
- Sometimes hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy, puberty, and steroid therapy leave the gums vulnerable to bacterial infection.
- A number of medications used for seizures, high blood pressure, and organ transplants can suppress the immune system and change the structure of the gums enough to permit bacterial infection.
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