A Gum Specialist Weighs In: Do Genetics Impact Your Risk of Gum Disease?

by | Aug 23, 2022

Some people are more susceptible to periodontal disease (gum disease) than others. Despite good hygiene, some patients struggle with oral health issues. Sometimes, they even mention that other family members have periodontal problems and have seen a gum specialist in Rochester, NY.

That’s not a coincidence. Studies suggest that periodontal disease has a genetic component, so it’s possible that some people are predisposed.[1] The early stages of gum disease is called gingivitis, which has swollen, tender gums and some bleeding while brushing and flossing. If left untreated, it can develop into periodontitis and more severe complications.

Understanding Periodontitis and When to See a Gum Specialist

Periodontitis is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue in the mouth. Without treatment, it can erode the jawbone that supports your teeth. Because of this, periodontitis can also lead to tooth loss.

In most cases, periodontitis starts with plaque, a film on the teeth that’s mainly composed of bacteria. The plaque forms on the teeth when starches or sugars interact with the natural bacteria in the mouth. Brushing twice a day removes plaque, but it reforms in between brushing.

If left unbrushed, plaque hardens on the teeth and under the gumline, turning into tartar (calculus). Tartar is more difficult to remove and packed with bacteria. The longer it’s left on the teeth, the more damage it can do. There’s no way to rid your teeth of tartar by brushing and flossing alone once the plaque has hardened.

Over time, plaque causes gingivitis, a mild form of gum disease. Gingivitis can be reversed with professional cleanings and good oral hygiene, but if left to advance, it will cause inflammation that leads to periodontitis.

The symptoms of periodontitis include:[2]

  • Swollen, tender gums
  • Bright red or dusky red gums
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Bleeding with brushing or flossing
  • Chronic bad breath
  • Pus between the teeth or gums
  • Pain while chewing or biting
  • Spaces developing between the teeth
  • Gums that pull away from the teeth (gum recession) and create a “long-toothed” appearance
  • A change in bite

Many of these signs and symptoms occur after gum disease progresses from gingivitis, which is treatable. Regular dental exams and cleanings can identify the early signs of gingivitis or periodontitis, allowing you to get early treatment.

Though common, periodontitis is largely preventable. Genetic and environmental factors play a role, but habits like poor oral hygiene and smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco dramatically influence the development of periodontitis.

The Link Between Genetics and Periodontitis

Several studies have identified a link between genetics and periodontitis. With periodontitis, both genetic and environmental factors play a role in its progression.

The high risk of periodontitis is associated with the biofilm found in the mouth, which is a complex structure of a microbiome that has different bacterial colonies in a group that stick to a surface (like your mouth or gums).[3] The specific bacteria can predispose you to gum disease.

According to the ADA, no specific gene has been identified that has a bigger impact on periodontal disease than other factors like diabetes or smoking.[4] Like cavities, periodontal disease is a complex, multifactorial disease that comes from a combination of genetic and environmental risk factors.

So, even if you have a predisposition for periodontal disease, lifestyle changes can minimize your risk.

What Can I Do to Protect My Oral Health?

If you’re predisposed to gum disease, hope for a healthy mouth is not lost. You can’t change your genetics, but you can take steps to minimize your risk.

At home, make sure to practice good oral care habits to prevent gum disease. The most common cause of gingivitis is poor oral hygiene, such as forgetting to brush and floss twice daily or neglecting your dental and periodontal checkups.

Make sure to brush and floss twice daily for at least two minutes to remove plaque. Focus on the gumline, the hard-to-reach back teeth, and your tongue. You should also use a mouthwash to kill bacteria and floss twice daily to remove the food and debris that gets stuck between the teeth.

It’s also important to reduce other risk factors for gum disease, such as smoking or chewing tobacco, using recreational drugs, and eating an unhealthy diet.

Schedule an Appointment with a Gum Specialist in Rochester, NY

If you’re concerned about your hereditary risk of periodontitis, Dental Implants and Periodontal Health of Rochester can help. We offer advanced treatment options for periodontitis to restore your oral health. Contact us today to schedule an appointment! 585-685-2005



[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7319430/

[2] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/periodontitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354473#:~:text=Periodontitis%20is%20a%20severe%20gum,bone%20that%20supports%20your%20teeth.

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5424192/

[4] https://www.ada.org/resources/research/science-and-research-institute/oral-health-topics/genetics-and-oral-health



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