Periodontal disease (also known as gum disease or periodontitis) has affected many Americans across the country and continues to do so. According to a study published in 2012, the American Academy of Periodontology revealed that nearly 65 million, or 47% of American adults over the age of 30 suffer from gum disease. That number skyrocketed to 70% for adults older than the age of 65.
Improper oral hygiene can often lead to gingivitis, which is a milder form of gum disease often characterized by red, swollen gums that sometimes bleed. Left untreated, gingivitis can commonly advance to periodontitis. In this scenario, bacteria will continue to amass below the gum line. Over time, tissue separation around the teeth causes pockets to develop. These pockets can deepen or become infected, ultimately leading to loose teeth or bone loss.
Understanding some of the causes and risk factors associated with gum disease can help to alleviate your likelihood of developing it in the future. Here are a few indicators to be aware of:
1) Proper Oral Hygiene
Plaque continues to be one of the most prominent risk factors of gum disease. Brushing your teeth twice a day, along with flossing regularly, can greatly reduce plaque build-up in your mouth. Scheduling regular dental checkups every six months are also great for your dental health.
2) Tobacco Use
Although tobacco use is often associated with chronic health issues such as lung and heart disease, it can also impact the mouth. Tobacco users are susceptible to periodontal disease as the nicotine found within these products reduces blood flow and oxygen supply to the vessels in the mouth. In addition to traditional smoking products, the increasingly popular electronic cigarettes have also been linked to gum disease.
Regardless of appropriate and consistent oral hygiene, some people are simply genetically predisposed to gum disease. Research has shown that as much as 30% of the population might be susceptible to periodontal disease due to a genetic predisposition. Genetic testing allows for the early identification and appropriate treatment of these patients.
Oral health can be impacted by many over-the-counter and prescription medications. Antihistamines, antidepressants, immunosuppressives and oral contraceptives can all impact your oral health. Whereas some medications can lead to swelling in the gums, others will lead to dry mouth. A lack of saliva production opens up the mouth to a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. As a rule of thumb, always keep your dental care provider informed of both your medication usage and your overall health.
The onset of stress limits the body’s ability to ward off infections. Stress has been associated with a variety of health issues including heart disease, high blood pressure, and even periodontal disease.
Diabetes is an example of a systemic disease that inhibits the body’s inflammatory system. When diabetes is difficult to control, higher blood sugar is often the result. Blood supply to the gums is reduced and dry mouth becomes prevalent. A decrease in saliva can allow for the onset of tooth-decaying bacteria.
7) Nutritional Deficiencies
While most of us think of poor nutrition impacting our waistlines, it can also serve to compromise our body’s immune system. A diet rich in H2O and balanced with vitamin C will help to fight off infections such as periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease should never be taken lightly. If you’ve been diagnosed by your Alexandria periodontist, it’s time to get the care you need to restore a healthy mouth and life. Schedule a visit with Karl A. Smith, DDS, MS today and trust your periodontitis to our practiced care.