You may already know some of the common risk factors for periodontal (gum) disease such as smoking, genetics, lack of dental care, and poor oral hygiene. But there are some lesser-known factors that may also increase your risk of developing gum disease too, which can be surprising to most people.
To reduce your risks for gum issues, be aware if you have any of the following:
Stress in Your Life
Research shows that stress has both a direct and indirect impact on your gums. Indirectly, stress can lead to behavior and lifestyle changes such as smoking, poor nutrition, grinding or clenching, and reduced oral care, which all increase risk for periodontal issues. Directly, studies show that stress affects your body’s mechanisms that control your immune system and inflammatory response. This means that when you are stressed, your body has a harder time fighting the harmful bacteria that cause gum disease. But even worse, stress can actually increase the inflammatory response, which can make gum disease progress more quickly and be more destructive to your oral tissues!
For women, hormonal fluctuations can play a part in their gum health. The reason is that hormones such as estrogen and progesterone can increase blood circulation to your gum tissue, which can cause an overreaction to the presence of plaque, the soft, sticky film that builds on our teeth daily and is loaded with harmful bacteria.
When hormonal levels are high, like during pregnancy, your gums can be ultra-sensitive to the plaque build-up and become red, inflamed, and bleed more easily. When hormone levels are low, like during menopause, your gum health is at risk because of two side-effects of menopause, dry mouth, and increased bone loss.
Your Medical History
Your oral health is linked to your overall health. That means that some of your medications and illnesses, past and present, can increase your risk for gum problems. Many medications can cause dry mouth and increase gum inflammation, both of which attract more harmful bacteria to your teeth and under your gums. In addition, the American Academy for Periodontology says that many illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, respiratory disease, and even obesity are linked to gum disease!
How You Bite
Ideally, your teeth are meant to bite together evenly. When you are missing teeth, your teeth are not aligned properly, or you grind/clench, your periodontal health can decline due to trauma to the tissues that support your teeth.
Recently, we published a page about FAQs about how your bite can affect your gums, which can explain more.
Although what you eat does not cause gum disease, poor nutrition can affect how your body maintains periodontal health and heals and stabilizes after gum treatment. Although more research about the correlation between diet and periodontal health is ongoing, a recent study suggests that a diet that is low in carbohydrates but higher in fiber, omega 3 fatty acids, and vitamin C and vitamin D can help reduce gum inflammation. In addition, a healthy diet helps boost your immune system so it can fight periodontal disease optimally.
What Can You Do to Reduce Your Risks?
If you have any of these risk factors, you might be able to reduce your risks by making certain lifestyle changes and always practicing good oral hygiene, which includes regular professional dental cleanings. While some of the risk factors can be reduced, some cannot, which is something that you should discuss with your dental professionals.