What Are the Top 8 Risk Factors for Gum Disease?

Risk factors for gum disease

What factors contribute to gum disease?

Gum disease (periodontal disease) is a condition where bacteria build up around the teeth and below the gumline, causing a variety of potential complications that can range from bad breath to lost teeth.

In the United States, over 47% of adults over age 30 suffer from some form of periodontal disease—increasing to over 70% for adults over 65. A wide range of risk factors can increase someone’s chances of developing gum disease, and knowing them can help you understand if you’re at risk for it.

1. Poor Oral Hygiene

Gum disease develops when bacteria build up to form plaque and tartar that can extend below the gumline. Regular brushing and flossing help manage bacteria in your mouth, reducing the likelihood of gum disease.

Poor oral hygiene can quickly lead to the onset of gingivitis, the earliest stage of gum disease. Gingivitis can cause bad breath and swollen gums, but more advanced stages have more serious symptoms. At this stage, improving oral hygiene can be very effective in stopping gum disease.

2. Age

The prevalence of gum disease nearly doubles between the ages of 30 and 65, making age a clear risk factor. There are many reasons why age can contribute to gum disease. In some patients, a lack of effective oral hygiene habits and preventive care eventually catches up to them as they age.

Older adults can experience dry mouth more often, which also contributes to gum disease. Older adults are also more likely to have additional risk factors—like underlying conditions—and use certain medications that can increase inflammation and the likelihood of gum disease.

3. Smoking

Smoking is another primary risk factor for gum disease. Smokers have a significantly higher risk of developing gum disease compared to nonsmokers. Smoking and other tobacco products can affect both bone and soft tissue, leading to gum disease.

Gum disease can develop much more quickly when the gums are weakened or begin to pull away from teeth. Smoking can harm gum tissue cells, interfering with their normal healing ability and making chronic infection more likely.

4. Crooked Teeth

Regular brushing and flossing are among the most important parts of gum disease prevention. But did you know that the alignment of your teeth can greatly affect the effectiveness of your oral hygiene routine? Crooked teeth provide more nooks and crannies for bacteria to grow.

When brushing, these isolated pockets can be difficult or impossible to reach. Crooked teeth and other misalignments can lead to gum disease and other complications, so seeking out treatment is highly recommended.

5. Underlying Conditions

There are a variety of underlying conditions that can increase your risk of gum disease. Diabetes is among the most prominent of such conditions. Individuals with diabetes often produce less saliva and have increased sugar levels in their saliva. Both of these factors can increase the rate of bacterial growth in the mouth.

Many other conditions also show an increased risk of gum disease. Cardiovascular disease is both a risk factor for and a side effect of gum disease. Leukemia and some other cancers can also be risk factors for gum disease, as can HIV.

6. Medications

Both over-the-counter and prescription medications can contribute to gum disease. Many medications can cause side effects that negatively affect the gums and increase the risk of infection.

Dry mouth is one of the most common of these side effects. Different medications can drastically reduce saliva production and allow bacteria to grow more quickly. Drinking water throughout the day can often help with this issue.

7. Hormonal Changes

Rapid changes in hormones can lead to the development of gum disease. This is particularly common during pregnancy, where changing hormones cause many women to develop gingivitis.

During pregnancy, menopause, or other times of rapid hormone changes, the inflammatory response to bacteria can increase. This means gums will swell and bleed with fewer bacteria present than are typically required.

8. Family History

Like many other conditions, the risk of gum disease may be partially hereditary. If you know that others in your family have dealt with gum disease in the past, you may also be at increased risk. Good oral hygiene and regular checkups and cleanings can help prevent gum disease in these cases.

Gum Disease Prevention and Treatment

If you’re experiencing symptoms, like bleeding gums or loose teeth, or are simply looking for the best foundation for oral health for you and your family, reach out to Luminous Smiles. Receive quality care from a Newport Beach dentist who can help prevent, identify, and treat gum disease.

Contact Luminous Smiles today to schedule an appointment for preventive care or to find out your treatment options for gum disease.