Risk factors in gum disease: Are you at a higher risk for gum disease?

Gum disease is preventable and treatable so let's take a look at some of the risk factors you should look for when assessing your own health.

Gum disease, better known as gingivitis or periodontitis, is an inflammation of the gums usually caused by bacterial infection, manifesting primarily in red, swollen gums that bleed easily when teeth are brushed. While treatable, If left unaddressed, it can become a more serious condition and cause severe tooth decay or even tooth loss. 

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, the majority of the out-of-pocket costs for dental care rests in the hands of Australians, and can be cost-prohibitive. Gum disease is preventable as well as treatable, so let’s take a look at some of the risk factors you should look for when assessing your own health.

1. Smoking

This should be no surprise to anyone. Smoking causes a number of detrimental health issues and gum disease is just one in a series – culminating with potential death. Additionally, should you develop gum disease and continue smoking, odds are that any treatments you undergo won’t be nearly as effective. A very easy solution to stop or at the very least stall gum disease’s progression is to stop or limit your cigarette intake.

2. Poor nutrition

Everything in our body is connected. Poor health in one area often leads to issues in other areas and a domino effect is created. Poor nutrition is a lack of essential vitamins often found in leafy greens, lean meats and other natural ingredients, sometimes coupled with excessive sugar or processed foods. The latter aren’t designed to be digested as well as those in a more natural diet and can, therefore, erode otherwise healthy tissue. A great rule of thumb is to keep the processed foods and sugary drinks to a minimum while over-indexing on a plant and lean meat based diet.

3. Stress

Stress is something that can inhibit the body to heal itself. When you’re stressed, your body begins to shut down non-essential aspects of itself to prioritise dealing with the stress at hand. Adding boundaries in your relationships and perhaps even some meditative practises can help alleviate something that can ultimately cause you bodily harm.

4. Medications

This risk factor can be tricky as most medications are being taken to alleviate or prevent health issues. It can seem like a hard balance to strike, but knowing your medication could lead to other issues like gum disease is important to keep in mind. These pharmaceuticals include but are not limited to:

  • Birth control pills
  • Antidepressants
  • Heart medicines
  • Seizure medications
  • Chemotherapy
  • Medications used to treat AIDS
  • Immunosuppressant medications

5. Medical conditions

Conditions that compromise someone’s immune system can cause overall health issues and gum disease is certainly one of those possible issues. Diabetes, cancer, even syphilis can contribute to gum disease. For a full list, consult your GP.

6. Age

Unfortunately, your risk of developing gum disease only gets greater with age. Approximately 1 in 4 people between the ages of 30 and 44 will get some form of gum disease. The percentage jumps to 50% when you consider people between the ages of 65 and 74 years old.

7. Sex/Genetics

Females tend to get gum disease more than males, perhaps because of their hormonal changes that come with childbirth and related matters. Make sure to check with your dentist and GP regularly.

Prevention

The number one risk factor for gum disease is poor hygiene. To prevent gum disease as well as many other issues that can stem from dental problems keep your oral hygiene up to date with some simple tips. Brushing your teeth at least twice daily is an excellent start. Once in the morning and again at night or after every meal. Doing so for a minimum of 2 minutes will also ensure your teeth are clean and your gums are particle-free.

But cleaning your teeth is just the beginning, if you feel you’re at higher risk for gum disease mouthwashes might also be helpful, especially those that contain hydrogen peroxide, saline, alcohol or chlorhexidine. Also, consider switching to an electric toothbrush for an even deeper clean. Finally, visit your dentist regularly especially if you have risk factors for gum disease.