Gum disease begins with mild symptoms like redness and swelling, but left untreated, it can lead to serious oral health problems, including tooth and bone loss. Because gum disease can cause systemic inflammation, it has even been linked to cardiovascular disease and other conditions. Given this, it’s important to stay vigilant against gum disease, and one way to do that is by understanding your risk factors.
Causes of Gum Disease
Periodontal disease is often caused by a combination of factors. For example, you may have a genetic predisposition to gum disease, which is compounded by a smoking habit; diabetes can create the right conditions for gum disease to develop, and your risk increases if you also skip flossing.
The most common causes of gum disease include:
Poor Oral Hygiene
Good oral hygiene means brushing for two minutes twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and visiting the dentist every six months for comprehensive oral evaluations and dental cleanings. If you don’t keep up with any one of these three habits, you’re more likely to develop gum disease. Plaque and tartar buildup on your teeth harbor the bacteria that cause gum disease, and if you don’t go to the dentist regularly, you might not spot the early signs of periodontitis until the disease has already caused irreversible damage.
Smoking and tobacco use are frequently the cause of periodontal disease. Dry mouth creates the right environment for the bacteria that causes gum disease to thrive, and smokers are more likely to have tartar on their teeth as well. In addition, smoking can slow recovery and healing, which can make gum disease more difficult to treat.
Unfortunately, you can’t do much about your genetics, so if you have a family history of gum disease, you’ll need to be especially diligent with your oral hygiene habits. People with a genetic predisposition to gum disease are six times more likely to develop periodontitis at some point in their lives.
The hormonal changes of pregnancy and menopause can wreak havoc on the body, and the mouth is no exception. Fluctuations in hormone levels have been linked to the development of gum disease, which is why it’s important to see the dentist during pregnancy.
Diabetes and gum disease create a vicious circle. High blood sugar allows harmful oral bacteria to thrive, and gum disease makes it harder to control blood glucose. In addition, diabetes can impede healing, further complicating gum disease symptoms and treatment.
Bruxism, or teeth grinding and clenching, can contribute to gum disease by damaging the gum tissue, leaving it more susceptible to disease. Teeth grinding can also exacerbate existing gum disease.
It’s common for medications to cause dry mouth, another contributing factor to periodontitis. Other medications can cause gingival overgrowth or make the body more vulnerable to infection. If you have a genetic predisposition to gum disease, it may be a good idea to consult with your physician to see if there are alternative medications that you can take instead.
Gum Disease Treatment
If you develop gum disease, it’s important to seek treatment as early as possible. A simple, minimally-invasive procedure called scaling and root planing can often reverse gum disease in its earliest stages. When gum disease is more advanced, a surgical solution may be necessary, as well as periodontal procedures that restore lost gum tissue and bone.