Risk Factors For Gum Disease

by | Nov 22, 2020

Gum disease – also known as periodontal disease or periodontitis – is caused by the bacteria in plaque that, if not treated, can lead to infection and tooth loss. What are the risk factors for gum disease and how can vulnerable adults prevent it? [1]

7 Risk Factors for Gum Disease

1. Tobacco Use

Tobacco use (cigarettes, cigars, pipes, vaping, and nicotine patches or lozenges) damage periodontal tissues. Once the gum disease is present, if you continue to smoke, you’ll likely advance the disease. [1] The CDC states that smoking weakens your immune system so it would be more difficult to fight gum infection. [5]

Other reasons why you should definitely quit smoking to avoid gum disease:

  • Smokers have twice the risk as nonsmokers for developing gum disease.
  • Those who smoke in greater quantity or over a longer period of time have a greater risk than infrequent smokers or those who haven’t been smoking for very long.
  • If you are a smoker who has developed gum disease, treatment may not work as well for you as it would for a non-smoker.

2. Diabetes

Diabetic patients who have poor control over their disease are at higher risk for gum disease. Several studies have shown evidence of an association between diabetes and greater susceptibility to oral infections.[1] It’s worth repeating that diabetic patients who are adequately managing their disease are at less risk and are more likely to be able to maintain gum health.

3. Age

Studies show that gum disease becomes more of a risk factor as a person ages. This is likely due to negligence and the cumulative time when the infection was allowed to spread and doesn’t indicate that age alone is responsible for periodontitis. [2]

4. Genetics

A study commissioned by Interleukin Genetics (now based in Massachusetts) found a significant association between the composite IL-1 genotype and severe adult periodontitis. However, we must remember that family behavior and patterns, along with education, chronic diseases, and environmental conditions could also be contributing factors. [1]

5. Stress

People who have trouble managing stress risk developing severe periodontitis. Studies have shown that work stress and financial strain is correlated with gingival bleeding and tooth loss – both indicators of either current or impending gum disease. [1] Stress increases glucose secretion that can hinder immune function and lead to greater resistance to insulin. Stress is also linked to poor oral hygiene. [1]

6. Obesity & Poor Nutrition

A clear link exists between obesity and gum disease, but studies have not been able to prove whether obesity causes periodontitis.[3] Studies that associate obesity and gum disease in young people say that a poor diet could be a cause. Looking at dietary trends for ages 11-18, there’s evidence of a significant number of foods that lack Vitamin C and calcium. Low levels of Vitamin C and calcium are associated with gum disease. [3]

7. Medications

Some medications may contribute to gum disease. Anticonvulsants, calcium channel blocking agents, and cyclosporine could potentially cause an overgrowth of gum tissue around the teeth. Other common medications like antihistamines, sedatives, narcotic analgesics, and antihypertensives limit or decrease the flow of saliva, which has antibacterial properties that can fight off microbial growth. [4]

A Periodontist Can Help If You Have Risk Factors for Gum Disease

If you find you are at risk for gum disease, there’s a high likelihood you can prevent it or prevent it from worsening by consulting with a periodontist. Dental Implants & Periodontal Health of Rochester can do a thorough examination and let you know the current condition of your gums. Our certified periodontal hygienists have the knowledge and experience to detect the smallest indications of disease and will let you know if you need further treatment. Our staff is caring and gentle and will make you feel comfortable as soon as you walk through the door. Gum issues, if not treated, can progress into much bigger problems.

Let us help you get control of your oral health. Contact us today to learn more. 585-685-2005




[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4055151/#B105

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7891246/

[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20722533/

[4] https://www.eufic.org/en/healthy-living/article/saliva-more-than-just-water-in-your-mouth#:~:text=Many%20bacteria%20are%20thus%20entrapped,settling%20in%20the%20oral%20cavity.

[5] https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/campaign/tips/diseases/periodontal-gum-disease.html#:~:text=How%20Is%20Smoking%20Related%20to,for%20your%20gums%20to%20heal.



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