While anyone can develop gum disease, there are several factors that can considerably increase a person’s chances for developing the problem. Gum disease is a type of infection in the gum, or gingival, tissue in the mouth. In the earliest stages, it can cause inflammation and irritation to the gums, making them swell and bleed more easily. In the more advanced stages, gum disease can lead to tooth loss, as the gums pull away from the roots of the teeth.
Understanding your risk for gum disease can help you determine the best way to treat and possibly prevent it.
What Causes Gum Disease?
Bacteria, mucus and other particles in the mouth band together to form plaque on the teeth. When a person brushes and flosses regularly, the plaque is usually removed from the mouth. Left alone, it can harden into tartar, which can’t be removed by brushing alone. Certain dietary choices, such as eating lots of sugary or starchy foods, can increase the amount of plaque on the teeth, as the bacteria have plenty of food to eat.
A buildup of plaque and tartar and the increase in bacteria can contribute to gum disease in two ways. First, there’s the increase in plaque and tartar that can irritate and inflame the gums. Next, there’s the increased bacteria count. If a person’s immune system isn’t well equipped to fight the infection, gum disease is likely to occur.
Gum Disease Risk Factors
A few risks factors can either make a person more susceptible to an infection or can increase the amount of plaque and tartar in their mouth. Common gum disease risk factors include:
Periodontal disease is often considered a complication of diabetes, and a diabetic person’s risk for gum disease rises if their diabetes isn’t kept under control. Increased blood sugar levels create a very welcoming environment for unwanted bacteria in the mouth. Additionally, people with diabetes are more likely to have difficulty fighting off infections.
Diabetes isn’t just a risk factor for gum disease. Gum disease can also increase a person’s risk for diabetic complications. In the more advanced stages, periodontal disease can raise a person’s blood sugar levels, which can be particularly bad news for someone who’s already struggling to keep their blood sugar under control.
Smoking and using tobacco products can interfere with blood circulation and can reduce the body’s ability to effectively fight infections, such as the bacteria that contribute to periodontal disease. Additionally, smoking and tobacco use slows down healing, making it more of a challenge for the mouth and gums to heal from gum disease.
Changes in hormone levels, due to pregnancy, birth control, puberty, or menstruation, can also increase a person’s risk of developing gum disease. Estrogen and other female hormones tend to increase blood flow, particularly to the gums. The increased blood flow can make the gums more sensitive so that they are more likely to become inflamed or irritated.
Some people are more likely to develop periodontal disease because of their genes. Aggressive periodontitis is one form of the disease that has a very strong genetic connection, but there is also likely to be a genetic connection among other forms of gum disease.
If your parents have or had gum disease, the best thing you can do is be proactive about your oral health. Schedule regular checkups with a periodontist and get in the habit of taking care of your teeth at home.
Oral Care Habits
Speaking of oral care habits, skimping on dental hygiene is a considerable risk factor for gum disease. When you don’t brush or floss regularly, you give plaque the opportunity to harden into tartar and bacteria a chance to grow and multiply in the gums.
Additional Gum Disease Risk Factors
While the above risk factors are the most common, there are a few other things that can increase your risk of developing gum disease, such as age, certain medical conditions, and your diet. Gum disease can happen to anyone at any age, but tends to be more common in older adults. Additionally, having diseases that affect the immune system put you at an increased risk for infection.
If you’re in the Miami area and are concerned about your risk of developing gum disease, a periodontist can help you better understand your risk and your treatment options. Dr. John Paul Gallardo offers patients a number of different traditional and cutting-edge treatments for gum disease and will work with you to develop a treatment plan that works for you. To schedule an appointment in Miami, FL, call 305-547-8687 today.