Gum disease risk factors: what you need to know for healthy gums
How old are you?
The chance of developing gum or periodontal disease increases considerably as you get older. Studies indicate that older people have the highest rates of periodontal disease and need to do more to maintain good oral health. However, as you read ahead, if you are a young patient (under 40 years old) and have any of the risk factors, you may have more serious dental problems that will worsen with time and require professional treatment in a timely way.
Are you female or male?
Studies suggest there are genetic differences between men and women that affect the risk of developing gum disease. While women tend to take better care of their oral health than men do, women's oral health is not markedly better than men's. This is because hormonal fluctuations throughout a woman's life can affect many tissues, including gum tissue.
Do your gums ever bleed?
Bleeding gums can be one of the signs of gum disease. Think of gum tissue as the skin on your hand. If your hands bled every time you washed them, you would know something was wrong. However if you are a smoker, your gums may not bleed, and therefore, “hide” the severity of your condition.
Are your teeth loose?
Periodontal (gum) disease is a serious inflammatory disease that is caused by a bacterial infection, and leads to destruction of the attachment fibers and supporting bone that hold your teeth in your mouth. When neglected, teeth can become loose and fall out. Loose teeth, even though nothing hurts, are a sign of periodontal or gum disease.
Have your gums receded, or do your teeth look longer?
One of the warning signs of gum disease includes gums that are receding or pulling away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer than before.
Do you smoke or use tobacco products?
Studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease. Smokers are much more likely than non-smokers to have calculus form on their teeth, have deeper pockets between the teeth and gums, and lose more of the bone and tissue that support the teeth. And yet, smokers may have no signs or symptoms of gum disease because the smoke masks the underlying problems.
Have you seen a dentist in the last two years?
Daily brushing and flossing will help remove bacterial plaque and even keep calculus formation to a minimum, but it won't prevent gum disease or calculus from forming. A professional dental cleaning at least twice a year is necessary to remove calculus from places your toothbrush and floss may have missed. If you are prone to gum disease, more frequent professional cleanings will help maintain your periodontal condition.
How often do you floss?
Studies demonstrate that including flossing as part of your oral care routine can actually help reduce the amount of gum disease-causing bacteria found in the mouth, therefore contributing to healthy teeth and gums. Brushing, alone, will not keep your mouth and gums healthy.
Do you currently have any of the following health conditions?
i.e. Heart disease, osteoporosis, osteopenia, high stress, or diabetes
Ongoing research suggests that periodontal disease may be linked to these conditions. The bacteria associated with periodontal disease can travel into the blood stream and pose a threat to other parts of the body. Healthy gums may lead to a healthier body. High stress levels release hormones into the bloodstream that act as “food” for the bacteria that cause gum disease. When you are under stress, you are “feeding” the problem.
Have you ever been told that you have gum problems, gum infection or gum inflammation?
Over the past decade, research has focused on the role chronic inflammation may play in various diseases, including periodontal or gum, disease. Data suggests that having a history of periodontal disease makes you six-times more likely to have future periodontal problems. Periodontal disease is often silent, meaning symptoms may not appear until an advanced stage of the disease.
Have you had any adult teeth extracted due to gum disease?
Most gum problems are generalized among a number or teeth, and are not isolated to a single tooth. For this reason, if you have lost a tooth to gum disease, the likelihood exists that you have a gum condition that needs to be treated, even if nothing hurts or you are unaware of any symptoms.
Have any of your family members had gum disease?
Research suggests that the bacteria that cause periodontal disease can pass through saliva, and remain on your toothbrush. For this reason, it is unwise to share toothbrushes. Individuals with advanced gum problems should be aware that they can transmit this to another family member through their saliva. Also, research proves that up to 30% of the population may be genetically susceptible to gum disease. Despite aggressive oral care habits, these people may be six times more likely to develop periodontal disease.
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a silent disease. It is chronic, much in the way diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases are, and as such, must be treated, contained, and monitored by a dental professional. Except in extreme instances, early intervention will help an individual save their teeth in comfort and good function.
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