Prioritizing your oral health involves more than just clean teeth. Your gums play an important role in your oral health, too, so do your part to keep them healthy and happy. That includes understanding what puts you at risk for periodontitis, the most severe form of gum disease. Learn more about what causes periodontitis so you can protect your smile.
What Are the Risk Factors for Periodontitis?
Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications
What Is Periodontitis?
Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease or periodontitis, refers to the infection and inflammation of the gums, ligaments, or bone surrounding your teeth. Periodontitis can cause the tissue to pull away from the tooth, leading to gum recession, bone loss, loose teeth, and eventual tooth loss.
Periodontitis Risk Factors
The effects of periodontitis are serious and irreversible, and treatment usually involves surgery, so understand what causes periodontitis and which factors put you at greater risk for severe gum disease.
Poor Oral Hygiene
Without a proper oral hygiene routine, plaque can spread and grow below the gumline. Then, toxins produced by the bacteria irritate the gums and cause the tissue and bone that support the teeth to become infected and inflamed. If not treated, the disease will progress and destroy both gum tissue and bone — sometimes with very few symptoms.
How to fight back: It's never too late to focus on your oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice a day for two minutes, clean between your teeth daily with floss or another interdental device, and make regular appointments to see your dentist for an examination and regular professional cleanings.
Along with poor oral hygiene, other lifestyle choices can increase your risk for periodontitis. These include:
- Smoking and Tobacco Use. The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) shares that tobacco use might be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease.
- Stress. When your body is under a lot of stress, that extra burden makes it more difficult to fight off infections like periodontal disease.
- Poor Nutrition and Obesity. Without the right nutrients, your body's immune system doesn't have what it needs to fight off infection. Plus, obesity might also increase your risk of periodontal disease.
How to fight back: Talk to your dentist or primary care physician about resources to help you make significant lifestyle changes. From connecting you to a nutritionist to giving you a plan to quit smoking for good, you can take steps to improve both your oral and overall health today.
Other risk factors for periodontitis are less in our control. Systemic diseases can interfere with your body's immune system and impact your gums for the worse. These include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Crohn's disease
- Leukemia & other cancers
- Other diseases and conditions that cause decreased immunity
How to fight back: Make sure you share your medical history with your dentist, so they can monitor your oral health and alert you to any changes. They might recommend more frequent checkups, especially if your treatment or condition changes.
Similarly, some medications can also impact your oral health. Some reduce saliva flow, which can cause dry mouth and keep bacteria on your gums and tongue from washing away. Others can create hormonal changes that could increase your body's inflammatory response or alter your immune response, increasing your susceptibility to oral infections.
How to fight back: When sharing your medical history with your dentist, let them know all of the medications you are taking. They can help you detect any adverse oral side effects and work with your physician to find the best protocol for you.
Hormonal fluctuations, such as pregnancy, can cause an increased inflammatory response to bacterial plaque, causing your gums to bleed. During pregnancy, women are prone to "pregnancy gingivitis," which, if left untreated, could develop into periodontitis.
How to fight back: Don't skip your regular dental appointments during pregnancy, and let your dentist know if your gums become swollen, tender, or start bleeding so you can immediately receive treatment.
Age and Heredity
Unfortunately, your family can pass down more than just good looks, and you can be more genetically susceptible to gum disease. In the same way, the older you get, the more likely your chances of developing periodontitis increase.
How to fight back: In both cases, early intervention is key. Ask your family if there's a history of gum disease and make regular visits to your dentist to monitor the health of your gums. With swift treatment, you can keep your teeth for a lifetime.
Do Dental Implants Increase Risk of Periodontitis?
If you have dental implants or are thinking about getting implants, you might have heard of peri-implant diseases. These gum diseases are indeed unique to dental implants, but the implants themselves do not put you at a higher risk of getting periodontal disease. Implants function just like your real teeth – by avoiding the above periodontal disease risk factors and practicing good oral hygiene, your dental implants can last a lifetime.
Treatment and Prevention of Periodontitis
If you suspect you might have periodontal disease, treatments exist depending on the severity of your case. See your dentist immediately for a diagnosis and treatment plan so that you can restore your oral health as soon as possible. Otherwise, follow the tips above to minimize the periodontitis risk factors you can control and fight back against those you can't. With the proper oral hygiene routine and help from your dental professionals, you can keep a healthy smile for life.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.