Gum disease is something you hear about somewhat frequently, but you may know very little about unless you have dealt with it personally. Gum disease can range from simple gum inflammation to severe damage to the gums that may eventually result in tooth loss.
You can ward off gum disease by practicing good oral hygiene – brush and floss daily, and visit your dentist for regular check ups and cleanings. Bacteria in the mouth is the main cause of gum disease, and keeping up with basic oral care is your best defense. If you don’t keep teeth and gums healthy by regularly flossing and brushing twice each day, plaque may build up on teeth. This build up results in damage to the teeth and surrounding gums.
While diligent oral hygiene is certainly a step in the right direction, there are many other issues that can cause gum disease to advance as well. Take a look below for a description of the top risk factors that may lead to gum disease.
Smoking or Chewing Tobacco
Tobacco products may lead to gum disease by affecting the attachment of bone and soft tissue to teeth. It also appears that smoking interferes with the normal function of gum tissue cells. This makes smokers much more prone to infections and may also impair blood flow to the gums.
Smokeless tobacco, on the other hand, may irritate gum tissue. This can cause the tissue to actually recede or pull away from the teeth. When gum tissue recedes, the root of the tooth is exposed, which can lead to tooth decay.
Diabetes causes blood vessel changes, which may impair blood flow and weaken bones and gums. This raises the risk of infection significantly. If the diabetes is poorly controlled, there will be higher glucose levels in mouth fluids, which can encourage the growth of bacteria that leads to gum disease.
A reduced flow of saliva is a major factor in leaving the mouth vulnerable to infections such as gum disease. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of prescription and over the counter medications that may cause a reduction of saliva. There are also other medications that may cause abnormal overgrowth of gum tissue, which can make it difficult to keep gums and teeth clean, eventually resulting in gum disease.
Hormonal Changes in Women
During puberty, their monthly cycle, while using birth control pills, during pregnancy, and when going through menopause, many women experience an increased risk for gingivitis because of the hormonal changes they are dealing with. An increase in hormones can cause the blood vessels in the gums to be more susceptible to bacterial and chemical attack. Not only can hormones affect the blood supply to gum tissue, but they can also affect the body’s response to the toxins that are caused by plaque buildup.
While poor nutrition won’t directly cause gum disease, it can certainly lead to an increased risk. When your diet is lacking needed nutrients, it can be more difficult for the tissues in your mouth to resist infection. Leading a healthy lifestyle is one of the best things you can do for your overall health, teeth and gums included.
Being aware of the many risk factors that can lead to an increased risk for gum disease is important for the health of you and your loved ones. While some of the above risk factors can’t be avoided, being mindful allows you to do all that you can to keep your teeth and gums as healthy as can be. It’s important to stay on top of oral hygiene both on your own and by visiting the dentist regularly to not only prevent gum disease, but to keep you and your family healthy in every way.
If you are still not sure if you or someone you know has gum disease, download our free eBook "7 Step Checklist to Determine if You Have Gum Disease".