Gum Disease Risk Factors

One of the biggest (but least discussed) public health issues today is periodontal or gum disease. It is very widespread, and it is the leading cause of tooth loss in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Periodontology estimate that among all adults in the US aged 30 or to 65, 50% have one of the two stages of gum disease: gingivitis or periodontitis. At Marineland Dental Care (located in Kennewick, WA), we provide our patients with instructions on how to better care for their oral health, as well as provide specialized, personalized treatments to prevent periodontal disease from becoming a problem.

What is most shocking about gum disease is how easily preventable it actually is. All it takes is good oral hygiene habits; these include seeing your dentist twice a year for check-ups and cleanings, and making the commitment to brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash twice a day.

While it is true that taking good care of your teeth is the best way to reduce your risk of developing gum disease, the risk is still there, and it is influenced by many factors; some of them you can control, others you might not have so much control over. The important thing is to know the risk factors of gum disease and use that information to create a plan of action that will work for you.

What Are The Risk Factors I Can Do Something About?

The risk factors that you can control fall under the general category of “lifestyle” risk factors. These are things that you do (or don’t do) on a regular basis that influence your chance of developing gum disease.

Improve Your Oral Hygiene Habits

We’ve mentioned it once before, but we believe it bears repeating: having good oral hygiene, and being disciplined about its maintenance, will go a very long way in preventing gum disease (and a number of other problems).

If you don’t already, you should be twice a day brushing, flossing, and rinsing. You should see your dentist twice a year, because even if you work very hard to brush, floss, and rinse thoroughly, only your dentist (or in this case, one of our very skilled hygienists) has the skills, the know-how, and the tools to bring your oral bacteria under control, or what we like to call “ground zero”. It’s similar to wiping the slate completely clean.

Gum disease is caused by plaque; plaque isn’t just a film of stuff on your teeth that results from not brushing properly, it is the actual bacteria that live in your mouth. This bacteria, when properly regulated by good oral care, is virtually harmless, but if it spreads below the gum line (plaque and tartar build up, down to the tooth roots) it can cause the symptoms of gum disease, which will lead to tooth loss and considerable pain, as well as emotional distress and embarrassment. Tooth loss is as life changing as an amputation.

Improve Your Stress Management

If you’re very stressed regularly, all that pressure is doing a lot of damage to your body, especially your immune system, which must be functioning to even attempt putting a stop to the progress of gum disease. When you’re under stress, all of you is under stress, and a weakened immune system won’t be able to stop the bacteria as it makes its way down, from the surface of your teeth, below the gum line, and on down to where it meets your jawbone and the other tissues that keep your teeth in place. The bacteria produce acids which destroy these tissues, and even worse, if your immune system can’t control the infection and eliminate it entirely, you will suffer from chronic inflammation (which is itself an immune response). Chronic inflammation will only add to the destruction, as the bacteria and your own immune system begin to destroy these critical tissues. Tooth loss is the end result.

Eat Better

In the same way that stress weakens your immune system, so will a poor diet. Your body, including your immune system, requires healthy, nutritious food. Don’t make the mistake in thinking that just because you look thin in the mirror doesn’t mean you’re necessarily getting all the nutrients you need!

Quit Smoking

That smoking is detrimental to your health goes without saying, but like improving your oral hygiene is very important, so to is quitting smoking. Smoking (along with all the other bad stuff it does to your body) will slow down your body’s healing process, which will make the inflammation that results from the infection of your gums much worse, and will accelerate the destruction of your tissues and your jawbone.

Of all the things on this list, smoking is probably the one most would expect to see, but it might also seem like one of the most challenging to change. If you are ready to quit smoking, don’t give up! There are lots of ways to quit smoking, but if you don’t believe in yourself, nothing will work. Think about it this way: would you rather have a full pack of smokes or a full mouth of teeth?

What Are the Risk Factors I Can’t Control?

Aging

Getting older brings a lot of change to your body. Your teeth are no exception, and they too will undergo remarkable changes as you reach a certain age. While many things will seem like they’re winding down a bit, perhaps as you prepare for retirement, you actually will need to increase you vigilance about your oral health, especially gum disease. Earlier, we mentioned a fairly grave statistic: 50% of Americans over 30 have gum disease. Once you hit the age of 65, however, that jumps up to 70%; all things considered, that’s about as close as you’ll get to a certainty.

As you get older, make sure to communicate with your dentist so that he understand the full picture of your health, and of course be vigilant about your oral health routine.

Your Genetic Makeup

Today, there isn’t a simple test to determine if you carry the “gum disease gene”. However, if you do carry it, your chances of getting it are much, much higher, even if you are very good about your oral health. The best thing you can do is build a family health history. Speak to your parents and older relatives about any major diseases that might have been prevalent in your family (including gum disease). If you find out that gum disease happens often in your family, the only thing you can do is remain vigilant and disciplined.

Diabetes

Diabetes is what is called a “systemic disease”; it effects multiple parts of your body simultaneously, and gum disease is even considered a complication of diabetes!

Diabetes sufferers have such an increased risk due to:

Higher levels of glucose (sugar) in saliva and other bodily fluids

Your saliva contains some glucose, but if you’re diabetic, you have more than someone who doesn’t. That’s more fuel for the bacteria that cause gum disease!

Thickened Blood Vessels

Your blood vessels provide your body with nutrients and removes wastes. The blood vessels of a person with diabetes are much thicker, slowing down the flow of blood; this seriously compromises your body’s ability to defend itself from infection and disease.

Being diabetic does raise your risk of developing gum disease, but if you are able to keep your blood sugar well-regulated, your chances of developing gum disease are no worse than someone who isn’t a diabetic.

Don’t Ignore Gum Disease!

Gum disease can be difficult to spot, and easy to ignore. But it is a terrible disease, and it will cause you to lose your teeth if it isn’t addressed.

Take action now and make an appointment today! Dial 509-591-0515, or click here to make your appointment right now.

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