Periodontal Disease (periodontitis) affects over half of adults in the US. Yet, many people have no idea they have it. We are on a mission to change that because in many cases, periodontitis may be preventable!
When you look at the following list of risk factors, chances are you will find at least one that applies to you. Each of these risk factors results in a decreased ability of your body to fight infection. The mouth is full of bacteria that can cause infections, leading to disease throughout the body. Periodontal disease has been linked to increased risks of cancer, heart disease, pregnancy complications, stroke, respiratory disease, and diabetes.
Your unique combination of these risk factors will dictate how likely you are to experience periodontal disease. If you have one or more of these risk factors, talk to your dentist about creating a custom oral health plan that takes these factors into account. Many patients can avoid periodontal disease (or at least keep it under control) by seeing their dentist more frequently, and by working to find methods to alleviate their risk.
7 Risk Factors for Periodontal Disease
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that over 70% of Americans 65 and older have periodontitis. Many factors may play a role in this — as you age, your gums naturally recede; you’re more likely to experience dry mouth, which means you don’t have the needed saliva production to neutralize bacteria and protect your teeth; you may experience bone loss, including around your teeth; and it may become difficult for you to brush and floss your teeth effectively do to limited mobility and/or dexterity.
2. Smoking/Tobacco Use
If you are a smoker, you know that tobacco use causes health complications (it says so on the box). I won’t harp on all the details because I assume you already know. But as your dentist, I want you to know that smoking is one of the highest risk factors for periodontal disease. Coming in for a cleaning/exam twice a year will not be enough to protect you from periodontal disease. If you are going to spend the money on smoking, I highly recommend choosing to invest just a little bit more in keeping your mouth in good shape.
If you know that your family has a history of gum disease, you should share this information with your dentist. I find people are vigilant about other disease screenings if they know it runs in their family, but few people think about their oral genetics. Sometimes, even with the most aggressive oral care habits, these genetically predisposed people may be more likely to develop periodontal disease. (I know because I am one of these people!) Telling your dentist can lead to early intervention treatments that may help you keep your teeth longer.
Ooooh … the S word. The number of diseases linked to stress outnumbers my fingers and toes. You’ve probably already heard that stress increases your risk for hypertension, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, depression, and anxiety, but it is also a risk factor for periodontal disease. The real culprit of oral disease is the bacteria in your mouth, causing infection and inflammation. Stress makes it more difficult for the body to fight off infection, including periodontal disease.
5. Medications + Diseases and Conditions
If you suffer from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, or rheumatoid arthritis, your gums are compromised, and you are at a higher risk of periodontal disease. Drugs that treat these conditions, as well as other drugs like oral contraceptives, anti-depressants, and certain heart medications, can affect your oral health as well. You must regularly update your dentist on your medical conditions and any medications you take. Your dentist can take these into account when creating an oral health plan for you.
6. Clenching or Grinding Your Teeth
Because clenching and grinding your teeth can put excess force on the supporting tissues of the teeth, it can speed up the rate at which these periodontal tissues are destroyed. Grinding also wears away your enamel, which I mentioned earlier is in limited supply. And since clenching and grinding are often stress-induced, I would venture to say you’re affected by that risk factor too.
7. Poor Nutrition and Obesity
A diet low in quality nutrients can compromise the body’s immune system and make it harder for the body to fight off infection. Because periodontal disease begins as an infection, poor nutrition can worsen the condition of your gums. Research has shown that the increased insulin resistance, and inflammation associated with obesity, may increase the risk of periodontal disease.