woman pulling her lip aside to look at inflamed gumsMost of the time, your gum infection is caused by the basic oral bacteria that are constantly fighting to gain a foothold in your mouth. But sometimes there might be a strange cause for your gum disease that could take a little extra attention.

Gum Tattooing

Remember when we watched that woman getting her gums tattooed black rather than get teeth whitening? In addition to the significant discomfort, any kind of tattooing of the gums can result in an infection if the tattooing instruments aren’t properly sterilized. Plus, there’s an inherent risk of infection because the mouth is full of bacteria. Practice good oral hygiene, and consider adding a mouthwash. We can get you a prescription mouthwash if you have a history of gum disease.

Make sure you tell your dentist if you’ve had gum tattooing, or, really, any cosmetic work in the mouth by anyone other than a dentist.


The human immuno virus is the culprit behind AIDS (autoimmune deficiency syndrome). HIV is an unusual virus because it specifically attacks your immune system, compromising your body’s ability to fight infections, including gum disease infections, which can suddenly erupt once your immune system is affected.

About 1 million people in the US (0.3% of the population) have HIV, but as much as 15% of them don’t know they have it. If you have engaged in high-risk behaviors or have symptoms of HIV infection, you need to get tested to eliminate this possibility.

Dengue Fever

Dengue fever is very rare in the US. However, it is widespread in tropical areas, and you can catch it essentially anywhere, including tropical Asia, Africa, Central and South America, even southern Mexico, such as visiting the Mayan ruins around Cancun. Dengue fever doesn’t really “infect” the gums, but if you have contracted the disease, you might notice excessive bleeding around the gums.

Symptoms of dengue fever include fever with:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Rash
  • Aches and pains

Severe dengue fever may occur as much as 48 hours AFTER the fever has resolved, and may include:

  • Feeling tired, restless, or irritable
  • Stomach or belly pain
  • Recurring vomiting (at least 3 times in 24 hours)
  • Blood in vomit or stool
  • Bleeding from nostrils
  • Bleeding gums

So if you have excessive bleeding around your gums accompanied by the symptoms of dengue fever, see your doctor immediately.


Scurvy is a condition that most of us only think of around Talk Like a Pirate Day. It was a very common ailment in the past, though. Scurvy is a disease caused by a deficiency in vitamin C, which is essential for your body to make collagen. Collagen is a protein integral to the structure of many tissues, including your gums.

As a result, bleeding and receding gums are one of the most common and noticeable symptoms of scurvy. Other symptoms of scurvy include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Irritability or depression
  • Joint or leg pain
  • Red or blue spots on skin
  • Tendency to bruise easily
  • Bulging eyes
  • Scaly skin

Scurvy can be very damaging to your gums, to the point of causing tooth loss. If you notice symptoms of scurvy, talk to your doctor.

Cancer Treatment

It’s an unfortunate side effect of cancer treatment that it often leads to the suppression of your immune system. As a result, your body can develop some serious infections, often related to what are normally harmless or even helpful microorganisms. This includes not just bacteria, but also fungus, which are common in our environment, and normally kept under control easily by our immune system.

It’s important to note that other treatments that suppress your immune system, such as treatment for autoimmune disorders, can also lead to gum disease. When you receive these treatments, your doctor should talk to you about heading off related problems such as gum disease. We can help you refine your home hygiene routine and/or schedule you in for more regular professional cleanings to help you maintain good oral and overall health.

If you are not sure what’s causing your gum disease, we can help. Please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a Columbia, SC cosmetic dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry today.