Gum Disease Risk Factors

Periodontal disease, more commonly referred to as gum disease, is the most prevalent disease in the U.S. In fact, over 80% of adults have some form of the disease.

So you may wonder: What are the factors that contribute to such a high incidence of the disease and is there anything I can do about it? The answer is that several factors contribute to gum disease. While certain risk factors are more difficult to change, there are some things you can do to control the disease. Below are risk factors along with what you can do to reduce your impact:

Age: Studies indicate that older people have the highest rates of periodontal disease. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that over 80% of Americans 65 and older have periodontitis.

Genetics: Research has indicated that some people may be genetically susceptible to gum disease. Despite aggressive oral care habits, these people may be more likely to develop gum disease. Regular visits to your dentist can help to identify small problems before they become bigger problems. Plus your dentist can recommend less invasive treatment options.

Medications: Some drugs, such as oral contraceptives, anti-depressants, and certain heart medicines, can affect your oral health. Just as you notify your pharmacist and other health care providers of all medicines you are taking and any changes in your overall health, you should also inform your dental care provider so he or she can advise you appropriately.

Other Systemic Diseases: Other systemic diseases that interfere with the body’s inflammatory system may worsen the condition of the gums. These include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Clenching or Grinding Your Teeth: Clenching or grinding your teeth can put excess force on the supporting tissues of the teeth and could speed up the rate at which these periodontal tissues are destroyed. Ask your dentist for what you can do to avoid grinding your teeth when sleeping.

Smoking/Tobacco Use: Tobacco users are at increased risk for gum disease. Studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of gum disease.

Stress: Stress is linked to many serious conditions such as hypertension, cancer, and numerous other health problems. It is also a risk factor for gum disease. Research demonstrates that stress can make it more difficult for the body to fight off infection, including gum disease. If you have high stress in your life, your dentist may be able to suggest some preventative care, such as a special mouth rinse.

Poor Nutrition and Obesity: A diet low in important nutrients can compromise the body’s immune system and make it harder for the body to fight off infection. Because gum disease begins as an infection, poor nutrition can worsen the condition of your gums. In addition, research has shown that obesity may increase the risk of periodontal gum disease. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables that is high in nutrients and vitamins will help lower your risk. If you are overweight, losing weight can also lower your risk of gum disease. Check with your dental care provider for a list of foods that are good for your smile.

Talk to your dentist about your risk for gum disease and additional ways to keep your gums healthy. And see which of the above changes you need to make. Just one more reason for you to adopt a New Year’s Resolution or two this year. Here’s to a healthy mouth in 2013!