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Contributing Factors for Gum Disease

Periodontal (gum) diseases, including gingivitis and periodontitis, are inflammatory diseases of bacterial origin that, left untreated, can lead to tooth loss. Periodontal disease can affect one tooth or many teeth. The main cause of periodontal disease is bacterial plaque, a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on your teeth. However, factors like the following also affect the health of your gums.

Oral Hygiene Habits

The primary cause of periodontal disease is improper or infrequent oral hygiene habits. Brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice daily is of the utmost importance in preventing and controlling periodontal disease. The types of oral hygiene aids and the way that you use them are critical factors in being able to reduce the levels of bacterial plaque and tartar that accumulate in your mouth. Your periodontist and hygienist can assist you in learning about the proper tools and techniques to effectively clean your teeth. Seeing your dentist and/or periodontist at least twice a year for cleanings is also imperative for achieving periodontal health.

Smoking/Tobacco Use

Tobacco use is linked with many serious illnesses such as cancer, lung disease and heart disease, as well as numerous other health problems. What you may not know is that tobacco users also are at much greater risk for periodontal disease than non-users. In fact, recent studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease. Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco all pose the same risk for developing periodontal disease.

  • Smoking and Periodontal Disease

Research proves that up to 50% of the population may be genetically susceptible to gum disease. Despite aggressive oral care habits, some people may be several times more likely to develop periodontal disease. If you are diagnosed with periodontal disease, it is important to have your siblings, parents, and children see a periodontist for a consultation to assess their periodontal status.

Puberty, Pregnancy and Menopause in Women

A woman’s health needs are unique. Though brushing and flossing daily, a healthy diet, and regular exercise are important for oral health throughout life, there are certain times in a woman’s life when extra care is needed—times when you mature and change such as puberty or menopause, and times when you have special health needs, such as menstruation or pregnancy. During these particular times, a woman’s body experiences hormonal changes that can affect many of the tissues in your body, including the gums. During puberty, menustruation, and pregnancy, women have increased levels of hormones, such as progesterone and possibly estrogen, that increase blood circulation to the gums. The increased level of hormones may cause the gums to become more sensitive, swollen, and red, and they may bleed more easily. Pregnant women should be have dental cleanings during their second trimester. Active, untreated periodontal disease can lead to an increased risk of having a pre-term, low-birth-weight baby.


Stress is linked to many serious conditions such as hypertension, cancer, and numerous other health problems. Stress is also a risk factor for periodontal disease. Research demonstrates that stress can affect the immune cells in your body and make it more difficult for the body to fight off infection, including periodontal diseases.


Some drugs, such as oral contraceptives, high blood pressure medications, and immunosuppressant drugs, can affect your oral health. Just as you notify your pharmacist and other health care providers of all medicines you are taking and any changes in your overall health, you should also inform your periodontist and dental care providers of all medications, including vitamins and supplements, that you are taking.

Clenching or Grinding Your Teeth

Has anyone ever told you that you grind your teeth at night? Is your jaw sore from clenching your teeth when you’re taking a test or solving a problem at work? Clenching or grinding your teeth can put excess force on the supporting tissues of the teeth and could speed up the rate at which these periodontal tissues are destroyed.


Diabetes is a disease that causes altered levels of sugar in the blood. Diabetes develops from either a deficiency in insulin production (a hormone that is the key component in the body’s ability to use blood sugars) or the body’s inability to use insulin correctly. According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 16 million Americans have diabetes; however, more than half have not been diagnosed with this disease. If you are diabetic, you are at higher risk for developing infections, including periodontal diseases. What you may not realize is that controlling your diabetes can improve your periodontal health and treating your periodontal disease can improve your sugar levels.

Other Systemic Diseases

Many other systemic diseases have been associated with periodontal disease. These diseases include cardiac disease, high blood pressure, obesity, chronic kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, pulmonary infection, Alzheimer’s disease, and HIV. Research studies continue to link periodontitis with many systemic conditions – the common thread being inflammation. Treatment of your periodontal disease can help to improve your overall health.

  • The Mouth Body Connection