9 Risk Factors for Gum Disease
Posted on: September 1, 2021
3 minute read
If you’re thinking about replacing one or more missing teeth with dental implants, there are a few health conditions that require attention before treatment. A common condition that can impact dental implant treatment is untreated gum disease.
Gum disease is a common oral health problem in Australia, and you may be more likely to develop gum disease if any of the following risk factors apply to you:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Poor nutrition
- Smoking and tobacco use
- Health conditions
- Hormone changes
Some of risk factors for developing gum disease above may be easily managed, while others may require talking to your doctor or dentist.
Gum disease affects the gums’ ability to heal properly after a dental procedure and can cause implants to fail. If you’re thinking about replacing missing teeth with dental implants and your dentist identifies gum disease, they may recommend delaying implant surgery until the gums can be brought back to health.
Gum disease can occur at any stage in life, regardless of whether you have natural teeth or restored teeth. Knowing how to prevent it, identify it and manage it, can keep your mouth healthier.
1. Poor oral hygiene
Gum disease is caused by bacteria that build up on teeth to form a sticky layer of plaque around the gum line. Bacteria can irritate or infect the gums, causing inflammation.
If left untreated, bacteria can multiple and cause gaps in gums where infection spreads and also damages the tooth’s structure, leading to tooth loss.
Keeping a good oral hygiene routine where you brush and floss your teeth daily and attend regular dental visits can help to improve your gum health.
Your dentist may recommend a professional clean, deep scaling or root planning to remove all bacteria in order to restore your oral health and prepare your mouth for dental implants.
2. Poor nutrition
A balanced diet helps to support a healthy immune system, fight off infection and allow the body to heal faster. Not getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet can make gum disease more likely to develop, particularly calcium and vitamin C.
Consuming too much sugar and carbs also feeds bacteria in plaque, which can lead to tooth decay and fast-track existing gum disease.
3. Smoking and tobacco use
Smoking or chewing tobacco increases your risk of developing many serious health problems, including gum disease. Smokers may be twice as likely to develop gum disease as non-smokers.
Tobacco also affects the body’s immune system and ability to heal. This can accelerate untreated gum disease and slow down the ability for your mouth to heal after dental implant surgery.
If you are a smoker thinking about replacing missing teeth with dental implants, your dentist will recommend quitting smoking before surgery.
4. Health conditions
Certain health conditions may increase your risk of developing gum disease or worsen its effects. This is because gum disease is linked to other diseases in the body through the inflammatory system.
Systemic diseases that are associated with a higher risk of gum disease include heart disease, type 1 and type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
During an implant consultation, your dentist will discuss your medical history, health conditions and any medications that can affect oral health and your suitability for dental implants. To book an implant consultation, contact us today.
Certain medications can affect oral health and make gum disease more likely to develop. This includes some antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs, heart disease medication, oral contraceptives and steroids.
Some drugs affect the body’s response to inflammation or infection, while others can cause a dry mouth and reduce saliva production, which is important for washing away plaque and neutralising acid on teeth.
If you’re concerned about the medications you’re taking and any impact they may have on your oral health, speak to your dentist.
There is growing evidence that suggests stress contributes to health problems developing, including gum disease, high blood pressure and cancer.
Stress is linked with poor oral hygiene, lower immune function and increased insulin resistance.
7. Hormone changes
Like certain medications, hormone changes can affect the body’s ability to fight off inflammation and infection. Hormone changes can also reduce blood flow to the gums, which is needed to fight bacteria.
This is most commonly associated with women during pregnancy, menopause, puberty and the menstrual cycle, as well as those undergoing hormonal replacement therapy (HRT).
Gum disease tends to be more common as we age, as other risk factors increase and our bodies become more susceptible to infection.
According to the latest National Study of Adult Oral Health, the number of adults with moderate to severe periodontitis (advanced gum disease) increased from 12% of 15–34 year olds to 69% of adults aged 75 years and over.
Some people are more genetically predisposed to gum disease than others, and you are more likely to develop the condition if family members have had it.
In these cases, it’s important to keep a good oral hygiene routine and stay on top of the other risk factors that are in your control.
What are the stages of gum disease?
There are two main stages of gum disease – gingivitis and periodontitis.
Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease. It can cause the gums to become red and swollen. You might not experience pain at this stage, but a major sign of gingivitis is bleeding gums when you touch or brush your teeth. Another common symptom of gingivitis is bad breath. This early stage of gum disease can be reversed by following a good oral hygiene routine and keeping regular check-ups.
Periodontitis is the advanced, irreversible stage of gum disease that requires treatment from a dentist. It can cause gaps in the gums for bacteria to breed, leading to an infection. It can also damage the structures supporting the teeth, eventually leading to tooth loss.
If gum disease has advanced, your dentist may recommend a professional clean that involves deep scaling and root planning. Only in some cases, is minor surgery or gum grafting required to remove all bacteria.
How to prevent gum disease
Committing to a good oral hygiene routine and addressing risk factors that are within your control can help lower your risk of developing gum disease. This includes:
- gently brushing your teeth twice a day
- using a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste
- flossing once a day
- eating a healthy, balanced diet
- cutting down on sugar and carbs
- drinking plenty of water
- quitting smoking
- trying to avoid or reduce stress
- attending regular dental check-up and cleans
Preparing for dental implant treatment
Healthy gums give dental implants the best chance of success. If you have advanced gum disease, your dentist may create a treatment plan that involves deep cleaning and root planning to remove bacteria from the gums and tooth roots and restore your oral health.
When you visit the dentist, they will examine your mouth and take a 3D bone scan to check if there is enough healthy jaw bone to support dental implants.
It can take anywhere from three to six months to restore your mouth’s health after your dentist has identified gum disease.
Talk to a dentist in Perth
If you think you may have gum disease and you’re not sure how this affects your suitability for dental implants, book a consultation with Dr Dave Norcross in Kelmscott or East Victoria Park.
- AlJehani YA. Risk factors of periodontal disease: review of the literature [retracted in: Int J Dent. 2021 Feb 12;2021:8735071]. Int J Dent. 2014;2014:182513. doi:10.1155/2014/182513
- Do L & Luzzi L 2019. Oral Health Status. p38-96. In: ARCPOH. Australia’s Oral Health: National Study of Adult Oral Health 2017–18. Adelaide: The University of Adelaide, South Australia