Periodontal or Gum Disease Risk Factors
Periodontal disease is a serious infection that is caused by bacteria building up in the mouth to such an extent that they cannot be controlled by the body’s own immune system. The disease results in the gums becoming inflamed (inflamed gums) and it is this inflammation that destroys the gums, and eventually the ligaments and bone surrounding the teeth. It is often called a ‘silent disease’ as there are few initial symptoms, but it is enormously destructive. Advanced gum disease may result in tooth loss which can be very upsetting, and can also mean you will require ongoing treatment to try to control this chronic condition.
Who is at Risk of Developing Periodontal Gum Disease?
Gum disease can affect anyone at any age, and even children are vulnerable towards developing this bacterial infection. Research has found it could increase the Gum Disease risk of developing other inflammatory diseases, or systemic diseases, or could worsen any existing health problems. If you already have certain health issues you may be more at risk of developing periodontal disease. However there are certain factors that increase your chances of getting this serious condition. Being aware of your personal Gum Disease risk can help you take action so you are less likely to develop gum disease. These include:
Unfortunately studies have shown that older people tend to have higher rates of periodontal disease. Figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 70% of Americans over the age of 65 have some form of periodontitis.
Smoking has been linked with numerous serious illnesses which include heart disease, cancer and respiratory illnesses. It is thought using tobacco could be one of the most significant Gum Disease risk factors for periodontal disease. This is at least in part due to the way smoking affects the gums ability to heal. Smoking narrows the blood vessels in the gums, making it harder for nutrients to reach the gums so they are less able to heal and fight infection. In addition, narrower blood vessels reduce the amount of blood reaching the gums, so it is quite possible that smokers won’t experience bleeding gums, a common symptom that often alerts people that something is wrong.
Diabetics are more at risk of developing periodontal disease (see: periodontal disease and diabetes) due to the way this condition affects the body, making it harder for them to heal and to fight infections. Diabetes can cause the blood vessels to thicken, making it harder for essential nutrients and oxygen to be delivered to the gums, and for waste products to be carried away. This can weaken the gums and the jawbone, decreasing resistance to bacterial infection.
Diabetics with poorly controlled blood sugar levels can have more glucose in their saliva, enabling the bacteria that cause gum disease to thrive and multiply, increasing the chances of developing gum disease. Periodontal disease causes the gums to bleed, and bacteria from the mouth will get into the bloodstream, making it harder for diabetics to control blood sugar levels. This can set up a vicious circle that can be difficult to break, and is why we often recommend diabetics visit us more frequently to help reduce these risks.
Certain prescription medications, including some heart medicines, anti-depressants, and oral contraceptives can affect your dental health. This is because they can cause your mouth to become drier as you produce less saliva. It is essential to have plenty of saliva as this helps to wash away excess bacteria and food particles that could otherwise increase your risk of gum disease.
If you notice you have a drier mouth than normal then it might be worth having a chat with your pharmacist or your doctor to see if it is being caused by any medications. It might be possible for your doctor to adjust the dosage or to prescribe something else that doesn’t have this effect. Always consult your doctor first, as you should never stop taking any medications without seeking professional advice beforehand. We can also help with dry mouth, a condition called xerostomia, so ask for advice and help at your next appointment.
Stress is linked with other health conditions that can increase your risk of periodontal disease, including cancer and hypertension. It is also thought that stress makes it more difficult for the body to fight off infections such as gum disease.
The body needs a good supply of nutrients to keep healthy and strong, and to enable the immune system to work correctly so it can fight off infections. If you have poor nutrition then your gums are likely to be weaker and more susceptible to infection. Advanced periodontal disease can make it uncomfortable or painful to eat. It is awkward to chew if you are missing teeth, and harder to eat a varied diet that contains all the proper nutrients.
The list of Periodontal Gum Disease risk factors is long, but being more aware will enable you to make better choices about your oral care. We can help through providing customized dental treatment plans that can help to reduce the chances of developing periodontal disease, or which can manage this condition.
Teeth Grinding or Clenching
Teeth grinding or clenching is also called bruxism, and can put the gums and bone surrounding your teeth under tremendous pressure. This can weaken these tissues, putting them at risk of gum disease.
Some people may be more likely to develop gum disease than others, simply because of their genetic makeup. If your family has a history of gum problems or tooth loss, it could be worth investigating whether you are at increased risk.
AIDS and HIV
Someone with HIV will be more at risk of developing gum disease, even if they do not have full-blown AIDS, but people with HIV/AIDS may also have gum problems that are unique to this condition. Necrotizing ulcerative periodontitis (NUP) can cause bleeding gums, and considerable jaw pain. It can rapidly destroy the bone surrounding and supporting teeth. We will often work with a patient’s doctor to make sure the pain is controlled and they are able to eat. If necessary nutritional supplements can be given until the infection is under control.
Linear gingival erythema is also called red band gingivitis, and is characterized by a visible red band at the junction where the gums meet the teeth. It is less severe and easier to treat than NUP.
Gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss, and several studies have shown possible links between tooth loss due to periodontal disease, and mouth cancers. The Gum Disease risk is even higher for people who smoke. In addition, studies have also shown evidence of links between periodontal disease and other cancers, including lung, pancreatic, gastric and esophageal cancers. As yet, the exact link between cancer and periodontal disease isn’t really known, but is thought to be due to bleeding gums enabling inflammation causing bacteria to get into the body.
Women are more at risk of developing periodontal disease at certain stages during life when hormone levels are higher. The increase in hormone levels heightens the gums sensitivity towards gum disease causing bacteria, and during this time gums can become red, swollen and tender, and they may bleed more easily. Times when the risk is higher include puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and the menopause.