Discovering if you have risk factors for periodontal disease helps you care for your health better.
A foundation is the most important part of a building, providing the strength and support that holds the building up. If it fails, the entire building is at risk. Your gums work much the same way, playing an often unseen role in your oral and even your overall health. They help to support your teeth and play a vital role in keeping them healthy by sealing your vulnerable tooth roots off from bacteria. The biggest risk to your gum health is periodontal disease, which is when oral bacteria begin attacking your gums. In the most severe type of periodontal disease, periodontitis, bacteria make it beneath your gumline and begin attacking the supporting structures of your teeth. When it goes untreated, gum disease can lead to tooth loss and can allow bacteria into your bloodstream, impacting your overall and oral health.
The good news is that periodontal disease is usually very easy to prevent by practicing a great oral hygiene routine. It’s also important to remember, however, that some people have a higher risk of developing periodontal disease than others. Knowing whether or not you have risk factors for the condition can be incredibly helpful because it gives knowledge you can act on to keep yourself healthier. Here’s a list of questions you can ask yourself to evaluate your risk of gum disease.
How old are you?
As you get older, your risk of developing periodontal disease increases. There are several reasons for this, such as decreased overall health and immune function, arthritis making it difficult to floss, side effects from medications, and more. Despite this, gum disease isn’t an inevitable part of getting older. You can work with Dr. Fenn to find solutions, oral care products like water flossers, and a schedule that works for you, keeping your teeth and gums healthy for years to come.
What’s your oral hygiene routine like?
Your oral hygiene routine has a huge impact on your oral health—including the health of your gums. A good oral hygiene routine should include brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day, flossing at least once a day, and using mouthwash by following the directions on the label. If you’re not practicing a regular oral hygiene routine like this, it’s important to adjust your habits to include it. Doing so can make a huge difference in your oral health. Flossing is especially important for preventing periodontal disease because it’s the best way to clean bacteria from between your teeth and around your gumline. The bristles of your toothbrush simply can’t reach these areas. Practicing a regular oral hygiene routine like this only takes a few minutes out of every day, but it gives so much more than that back by playing a vital role in keeping your teeth and gums healthy long term.
How do your habits impact your risk?
Your daily habits impact your risk of periodontal disease, either raising or lowering it. Being aware of how your habits impact your gum health means you can make changes that will protect it by actively lowering your chances of gum disease. Your diet is one of these habits, as eating a lot of unhealthy foods, especially if it’s causing you to develop a deficiency in vitamin C, brings your risk of gum disease up. On the other hand, sticking to a healthy, balanced diet decreases that risk and gives your body all the nutrients it needs to maintain healthy teeth and gums.
There’s also evidence that exercising regularly can actively lower your chances of periodontal disease and help you recover from it, at least in part because it boosts your immune response. It also helps you drop any extra weight, which impacts your risks of gum disease. This means that adding even a simple exercise routine to your daily or weekly schedule can protect your oral and overall health on multiple levels.
Similarly, recreational drug use, including vaping, and any form of tobacco use makes your gums vulnerable because it weakens your immune response. This makes it harder to fight off periodontal disease and makes it difficult for the tissues in your mouth to heal from damage. The average smoker is two times more likely to develop gum disease—and the more you smoke, the more vulnerable you are. Thankfully, making an effort to severely reduce or quit harmful habits like these can bring your risk of gum disease back down.
Do you have preexisting conditions that can contribute to periodontal disease?
There’s a range of health conditions that can increase your risk of periodontal disease, often by impairing or weakening your immune system. Autoimmune diseases like celiac disease or lupus, leukemia, diabetes—especially if it’s poorly controlled—and rheumatoid arthritis are just a few examples of health issues that can increase your risk of gum disease. Even if your health condition itself doesn’t increase your risk, certain medications can, particularly if one of their side effects is dry mouth.
Once again, this doesn’t mean that you’re doomed to get periodontal disease. Listening to your doctor and doing your best to control your health issues can help protect against gum disease, as can sticking to a thorough oral hygiene routine and seeking advice from Dr. Fenn about extra steps you can take to protect your gums. If you have chronic dry mouth, for example, you can drink extra water throughout the day and use a specialized mouthwash in your oral care routine that’s designed to help fight dry mouth. This helps ease your dry mouth, so it doesn’t just keep your gums healthy—it helps you feel better, too.
Are you going through hormonal changes?
Hormonal changes such as those that occur during pregnancy, menopause, menstrual cycles, hormone replacement therapy, and using birth control can make you more susceptible to gum disease. While you can’t remove these risk factors, being aware of them helps you be better about sticking to your oral hygiene routine so that you can prevent issues before they occur.
Have you had gingivitis or periodontal disease in the past?
If you’ve had gum disease in the past, you’re more likely to get it again in the future. Sticking to a solid oral hygiene routine can help you prevent this, as can using specialized oral care products. Instead of using a standard mouthwash, for example, you can use one that’s specifically designed to help prevent gingivitis. It’s also vital that you visit Dr. Fenn for a regular appointment every six months so that he can give your teeth a professional cleaning and evaluate your oral health. This ensures that he can spot any issues, like recurring gum disease, early. When it’s caught early, getting rid of gingivitis is often as simple as flossing every day and using a specialized antibacterial mouthwash.
Does someone in your immediate family have a history of periodontal disease?
You can be genetically predisposed to periodontal disease, so it’s good to be aware of whether or not you have a family history of the condition. It’s not just genetics that can play a role here, however. Like other bacteria, oral bacteria can be transmitted. So when one of your immediate family members has gum disease, they can pass the bacteria along to you and increase your chances of getting gum disease, too.
Are you experiencing symptoms of periodontal disease?
Periodontal disease can be infamously difficult to spot at home until it’s advanced, making it incredibly important for you to visit Dr. Fenn every six months for regular professional cleanings and evaluation. That said, there are a few signs of gum disease you can look out for at home, including receding gums, tooth sensitivity, persistently bad breath, swollen or dark-colored gums, and gums that bleed when you brush or floss your teeth. In extreme cases, chewing may begin to hurt or your teeth may even begin to feel loose. If mild bleeding doesn’t go away after you begin flossing every day for about a week or if you notice more severe symptoms, it’s best to schedule an appointment with Dr. Fenn right away.
There’s a wide range of factors that impact your risk of gum disease, from factors you can control to those you can’t. The good news is that when you understand your unique risk factors, it opens the door to many ways you can work to keep your gums healthy! If you’d like to learn more about your risk factors or what you can do to protect your gums, feel free to call and schedule an appointment with Dr. Fenn at our Buxton dentist office any time.