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4 Leading Risk Factors for Gum Disease

Harvey Dental Group
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BY Harvey Dental Group

Gum disease is a common condition that affects many Americans. This disease may begin with mild tenderness and bleeding when brushing or flossing, but it can advance to aggressive periodontal disease, which affects the gums, teeth, and jawbone. While anyone can develop gum disease, there are a few factors that can increase your risk. If you are worried about gum disease, check out these four leading risk factors.

1. Tobacco Use

Tobacco use causes several gum problems, and smokers have twice the risk of developing gum disease than nonsmokers. First, tobacco interferes with your body's ability to fight infection, and gum disease begins with an infection in the gums. Once your gums start to experience irritation from gum disease, they may bleed more often as the disease destroys gum tissue.  

Unfortunately, tobacco also hinders your body's natural ability to heal. Therefore, your body can't fight the damaging effects of gum disease as well, giving it more time to develop into advanced periodontal disease. Even if you do seek professional treatment, it may not be as effective while you are smoking.

Your best bet is to stop smoking, especially if you've been smoking for a long time as the risk increases the longer you smoke. Similarly, the more cigarettes you smoke, the higher your risk, so reducing the amount you smoke could be mildly beneficial.

2. Bruxism

Many people grind their teeth, a habit known as bruxism. You may do it when you are angry or stressed. During the day, bruxism is less severe because you can catch yourself and force yourself to stop. However, bruxism often occurs while you are sleeping. Therefore, you may not even know you grind your teeth until symptoms begin to appear or someone tells you.

Bruxism puts a lot of stress on the teeth and the supporting tissue, such as ligaments. This can loosen the teeth and create pockets. This makes it easier for debris to get trapped, which will irritate teeth and gums. One of the best treatments for bruxism is a mouth guard, which is supposed to stop you from grinding your teeth.  

3. Uncontrolled Systemic Diseases

Systemic diseases affect the entire body, and some of the most common include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and rheumatic disease. All of these diseases can increase your risk of gum disease. Diabetes, like tobacco, affects the body's ability to fight infection, but uncontrolled diabetes also boosts glucose levels, which can promote bacteria and worsen gum disease.

Many of these systemic diseases cause widespread inflammation, which is believed to be linked to gum disease. Plus, studies have shown that uncontrolled gum disease can also increase your risk or worsen the symptoms of some systemic diseases. You may not be able to cure your systemic disease, but you should get it under control to help fight gum disease.

4. Poor Diet

A poor diet can lead to gum disease in multiple ways. If your diet consists of a lot of sugar, simple carbohydrates, and acids, you are increasing your risk of irritation to the gums. Normally, regular brushing and flossing should get rid of the debris, but if it manages to harden into tartar, you can't remove it at home, so it is left to irritate your gums.

A poor diet often lacks nutrients, and if you aren't getting the nutrients your body needs, your immune system cannot fight off infections as effectively. Luckily, you can fix this by changing your diet to healthy foods, such as vegetables, fruits, and lean protein.

Gum disease is a common concern, but it doesn't have to be. You can prevent gum disease by caring for your oral health and your overall health.

If you would like to know more, or if you need to schedule a cleaning, contact us at Dr. M. Dawn Harvey, DMD, PC, today.

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