Factors for Gum Disease
There are many risk factors for gum disease development. These risk factors will
increase the severity, and speed at which gum disease may occur. The most common risk factors
- Poor oral hygiene
- Failing dental restorations
- Hormonal variations
- Connective tissue disease
- Previous history of active periodontal (gum) disease
- Dry mouth (Xerostoma) (Click here to go to
Dry mouth information paper)
All of the above risk factors have different mechanisms of action,
however, they increase the risk for gum disease in one of two ways; increasing the biofilm (plaque/debris
film) levels in the mouth, or by diminishing the body’s ability to combat the bacterial challenge. In some
cases both mechanisms are contributing to the risk factor.
Heredity is a risk factor for two reasons; it generally increases a person’s
susceptibility to having periodontal disease because of the persons immune system function, and also due to
the persons learned homecare and perceived ideas about dental care. Patients sometimes have the idea that
because their parents, grandparents, etc. lost teeth, had “bad gums/teeth”, and so on; this is ultimately
what will happen to them. Dentistry has advanced by leaps and bounds since most peoples parents were young,
let alone when there grandparents grew up. Patients have also learned more effective ways to keep their mouth
clean, and healthy due to the advances in dental care products, and education. Patients are also a lot more
aware of the need for cleanings and check ups at a professional dental practice on a regular basis, to
prevent dental decay and gum disease. This is a significant advantage, compared to the times when patients
didn’t go to the dentist except when a tooth was causing discomfort. Brushing and flossing wasn’t emphasized
like it is now, some didn’t have a tooth brush, or floss (options were very limited), and if they did were
not taught how to effectively use them.
Smoking is the second leading risk factor for gum disease. Smoking basically cuts off
the blood flow to the tissues in the mouth. Without adequate circulation to and from the tissues they become
necrotic, and allow bacterial growth to prevail, therefore causing severe periodontal disease. The burning of
the tissues and constant irritation is part of this process, as well as creating a host home for bacteria to
colonize on the teeth where tar has been burned onto the tooth surfaces. Smokings mechanism of action is both
autoimmune, and by increasing biofilm.
Diabetes is the number one risk factor for gum disease. Because diabetes is an
autoimmune disorder the person’s ability to combat the bacteria that cause periodontal disease is decreased.
The medications a diabetic person generally takes as well as the diet/nutritional requirements are added risk
factors a diabetic patient faces. This exponentially increases person with diabetes likelihood of acquiring
gum disease, the severity of gum disease, and progression of the disease. A person on medications, that has
nutritional deficiencies, and or a high carbohydrate intake (some diabetics will do this to bring low sugar
levels up), that is also a diabetic would be not 3 times more likely, but 27 times more likely to have
gum disease, more severe gum disease, or rapidly progressing gum disease.
Stress, nutrition deficiencies, hormonal variations, immunocompromised, connective
tissue diseases, and previous history of active perio disease all follow the mechanism of impairing the
body’s ability to combat the bacteria involved in gum disease. Poor oral hygiene, high carbohydrate
consumption, and failing dentistry are risk factors that involve the increase in biofilm (plaque/ bacteria)
in the person’s oral environment. This poses a great risk for gum disease, increasing severity of gum
disease, and progression of gum disease.
It is in a person’s best interest to reduce the number of risk factors they
potentially have for gum disease. Having optimal homecare, avoiding high consumption of carbohydrates, making
sure to meet all nutritional requirements, and seeing your dentist on a regular basis (as recommended by your
dentist) are some of the simpler ways to reduce your potential risk factors for gum disease. Stopping
smoking, controlling diabetes, reducing stress, improving your immune system, reducing the number of
medications taken, and regulating a hormone imbalances, can be very very challenging risk factors to combat.
Trying our best to be healthy, hygienic, and happy individuals, can be the best way to combat the possible
risk factors you as an individual may face. Don’t hesitate to seek your doctor’s advice, as well as your oral
health care team.
September 23, 2009
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