Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a serious concern for your oral health. Not only can untreated gum disease cause you to lose your teeth early, but it has also been listed as a risk factor for serious conditions such as premature childbirth and heart disease. Fortunately, most cases of gum disease can be prevented and treated with early detection and education. Here, are the lifestyle factors and behaviors that increase your risk for developing gum disease.
Periodontal Disease Risk & Aging
Although severe cases of gum disease have been found in children, it is important to know that it is a progressive disease. For this reason, a person’s risk increases with age…and most adults over the age of 65 have some form of periodontitis.
Tobacco and Alcohol Use
Tobacco and alcohol both reduce blood flow to the gums and can cause dry mouth, which allows plaque and tartar to multiply. Chronic use of these products can also deplete a person’s vitamin C levels and interfere with healing of the gums.
Occasionally, a person will present with gum disease despite perfect oral health and hygiene. Sometimes, this is due to a genetic disposition. Those who know that gum disease is a part of their family history can have genetic testing done to determine their risk.
Prolonged stress is a risk factor for many chronic illnesses and it can also contribute to gum disease. This could be due to a person slacking off on their oral hygiene routine due to a lack of motivation or time. However, stress also disrupts the immune system and can make it harder to fight off gum infections.
There are several commonly prescribed medications that can contribute to the development of gum disease. For example, oral contraceptives can create hormonal fluctuations that affect the blood flow to the gums. Other medications can lead to dry mouth or abnormal bleeding from the gums. Therefore, it is important for you to keep your dentist informed about any medications you currently take.
Teeth Grinding and Clenching
When you grind or clench your teeth, higher than normal forces are applied to your gums and their supporting ligaments. Over time the periodontal tissues can be destroyed thereby making them more susceptible to infection.
If you have a systemic disease that causes inflammation within your body, then it could also lead to gum inflammation and infection. Talk to your dentist if you have diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis or heart disease so that they can help you take measures to prevent gum disease.
Your gums need vital nutrients and minerals to stay healthy, just like the rest of your body. When you are malnourished, you are less capable of fighting off infections. Fresh fruits and vegetables also help to keep the gums healthy by gently brushing away plaque and encouraging blood flow.
Gum disease is commonly found during a routine dental exam. You should remember that it often shows no symptoms until it has progressed to the later stages. While good home care, such as regular brushing and flossing, will help to prevent gum disease, it is also important to talk to Dr. Shumway about your risk factors. This way, you can partner with your dentist to develop a multi-factor approach that will prevent gum disease before it affects your health.