Gum disease is a dental issue that many are, at the very least, familiar with. According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50% of adults aged 30 and over have experienced at least one form of gum disease. Gum disease is caused by plaque that has hardened and that has not been removed properly; this results in an infection of the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth.
While no one is immune to gum disease, there are people who are more susceptible to gum disease than others. Despite the fact that oral hygiene remains to be the biggest factor at play regarding who succumbs to gum disease, there are certain variables that make one more prone to gum disease than another.
Gum Disease Risk Factors
Aside from poor oral hygiene, there are certain risk factors that make one more susceptible to gum disease. One of the more frustrating risk factors is genetics. Because there is nothing you can do about your genetics, this often frustrates patients who do care for their teeth as it is, for the most part, out of their control.
With that being said, knowledge is power. Knowing that your family has a history of gum disease can help you become more proactive. By taking preventative measures like sticking to a strict professional cleaning schedule, you can catch gum disease before it progresses. Another risk factor that people have no control over is age. As you age, it is important to become more aware of the health of your gums and to visit your dentist regularly for cleanings.
While there are risk factors that people do not have control over, there are risk factors that can be controlled. Stress, for example, affects the body’s immune system and makes it more difficult for the immune system to fight infections. This translates to being more susceptible to gum disease. Focusing on the causes of your stress and finding ways to manage your stress can help boost your body’s immune system function.
Bruxism, the involuntary grinding or clenching or teeth, is another risk factor that can be controlled with the use of certain oral appliances. Medications that alter the hormone levels in the body can also increase one’s susceptibility to gum disease. If you are taking antidepressants, oral contraceptives, or a blood pressure medication, speak with your dentist about the actions you can take to help reduce your gum disease risk.
Finally, unhealthy habits can also raise one’s gum disease risk. Poor nutrition is linked to having a lowered immune system, which can increase the spread of infections throughout the body. With that being said, the most dangerous of the risk factors for gum disease is tobacco use. The use of tobacco products increases tartar buildup within the mouth, dries out the mouth, and hinders oral healing.
Do I Have Gum Disease?
Many people assume that if they do not have cavities or pain in the teeth or gums that they do not have gum disease. This is a dangerous assumption to make for a few reasons. If someone does not seek regularly scheduled cleanings and visits to their local dentist’s office because they feel that their teeth and gums are healthy, plaque will eventually build up (which will then lead to gum disease).
Further, the first stage of gum disease, gingivitis, is usually “silent” and does not produce pain. If it is caught early, gingivitis can be reversed. It is the only stage of gum disease that can be reversed. If left untreated, however gingivitis can progress to periodontitis or advanced periodontitis, both of which cannot be reversed. If you notice that your gums are red, swollen, or that they bleed when you brush your teeth, you could currently be suffering from gingivitis.
By scheduling regular cleanings with your dentist, practicing healthy daily oral hygiene habits, and ceasing all activities that increase the risk of gum disease, you can lower your susceptibility to gum disease. If you have certain risk factors that you cannot control, like genetics or age, speak with your dentist to come up with a personalized oral-hygiene plan that will help to make your teeth and gums as healthy as they possibly can be.