The jawbone and gums plays an important role in the support and stability of the teeth. A healthy gum is always firm, pink in color and fits snuggly around the teeth. Recession, bleeding and redness of the gum tissues are early signs of gums disease and bacterial infection. When an infected gum is left untreated, the infection can spread and eventually destroy the structures that support your teeth in your jawbone.
Periodontal or gum disease usually begin with bacterial growth in your mouth, especially along the gum lines. Periodontitis, an advanced form of gum diseases can lead to tooth loss due to destruction of the tissue and bone that supports your teeth. On the other hand, gingivitis is the earliest stage of periodontal disease, at this point the infection affects only the gums. Red, swollen, or tender gums, persistent bad breath, gums bleeding during and after tooth brushing, formation of deep pockets between teeth and gums, gums recession are the common signs and symptoms of gum disease.
In addition, periodontal disease can affect anyone both adults and children. It usually starts with slow deterioration that may improve or get worse over time and result to destruction in the gums and bone and loss of teeth if not treated. Now, let’s look at some of the possible causes of periodontal disease and how the disease can be prevented.
Causes Of Periodontal Disease
Good oral hygiene practices, which includes daily brushing, flossing and rinsing removes plaque – a thick film of bacteria forming on gums and teeth. When you fail to brush and floss regularly, plaque can easily accumulate on the teeth and gum line, forming tartar which is more difficult to remove and it’s filled with bacteria. The longer plaque and tartar remain on your teeth, they can easily cause damages and develop into gingivitis or tooth decay.
As more plaque accumulate, bacteria spreads below the gum lines where they’re protected because your toothbrush can’t reach them. The buildup of these bacteria below the gumline causes the gums to become red, inflamed and bleed easily.
2. Smoking and tobacco Use
The more you smoke, the higher the risk of developing gum disease. Smoking increases the risk of periodontal disease, because it tends to interferes with the normal function of gum tissue cells. It impedes growth and repair of gum tissue, and poor oral hygiene. Smokers tend to collect more tartar on their teeth, they are likely to develop deeper periodontal pockets making them more vulnerable to infections like gum disease.
3. Hormonal changes
Women tend to experience increased fluctuations in hormonal levels during pregnancy, puberty, menopause, and monthly menstruation. These changes makes their gums to be highly sensitive and susceptible to oral infections and gingivitis. Pregnant women in particular are more likely to have problems with their gums and teeth as they experience increased rise and fall in their hormones levels.
Some medications have side effects that can affect your oral health negatively. Some medications lessens saliva production and flow, leaving a dry mouth where bacteria can more readily spread. Naturally, our saliva has a strong cleansing and anti-bacterial properties which helps to keep our gums and teeth free from bacteria and acid attacks. If you don’t have enough saliva, plaque is more likely to accumulate and lead to tooth decay or gum disease.
However, some drugs can cause abnormal growth of gum tissue and reduction in saliva production. Some of these medications includes:
- Phenytoin (Dilantin and other brand names), used to control seizures.
- Cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), used to suppress the immune system in people who have had organ transplants.
- Nifedipine (Adalat, Cardizem and others) and other calcium channel blockers, used to treat high blood pressure, chest pain (angina) or heart arrhythmias. (1)
5. Nutritional deficiency
Balanced diets is crucial for overall good health, including a strong immune system, healthy gums and general oral health. Certain nutrients such as vitamin C is essential for the overall health of the gum tissues. If your oral hygiene is questionable and you’re not getting enough vitamin C, you can easily develop periodontal disease. Gum problems can easily surface if your meals are usually high in sugar and carbohydrates and low in water and vitamins C.
People with certain diseases such as cancer or HIV are at higher risk of developing periodontal disease, since these diseases interfere with the immune system. Diabetics are also at higher risk of developing infections, including periodontal disease and cavities, as the disease affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar. In addition, other illnesses that can increase periodontal disease risk include inflammatory condition such as rheumatoid arthritis.
7. Crooked teeth
Misaligned, crooked or crowded teeth, braces or bridgework are more difficult to brush or keep clean. They increase the chance of plaque and tartar formation. Places where the teeth are overlapped or crooked, can create a great breeding ground for gum disease. The more plaque and tartar that accumulates there, the greater your chance of developing gum disease, gums recession and cavities.
Some people are highly prone to periodontal disease because of their genetic make-up. According to studies, family history of dental disease can be a contributing factor for the development of gingivitis and other dental problems. If there has been a history of gum disease in your family, it’s possible that you can be more likely than others to get periodontal disease because of your genes. Note, this will only increase your risk for developing gingivitis, but you can easily prevent this by practicing good oral care and habits.
Frequent clenching or grinding of the teeth exert excessive force on the teeth. The constant pressure generated from the habit appears to speed up the breakdown of the periodontal ligament and bone. Although, these habits won’t cause periodontal disease but they can lead to more severe disease if your gums are already inflamed. To stop teeth grinding, your dentist or periodontist can create a custom guard appliance to help reduce the pressure of clenching or grinding on the teeth. (2)
Stress won’t actually cause gum disease directly, but it can make the disease more difficult to control. Stress disrupts certain activities in your body, it weakens your body’s immune system. All this can affect your body’s immune system negatively, making it difficult for your body to fight off certain infections, including periodontal disease.
How To Prevent Periodontal Disease
The best way to prevent or reverse the progression of gum disease is to begin early and practice good oral hygiene consistently throughout life. Here are the effective ways to prevent gum disease:
- Good oral hygiene: Brushing and flossing regularly helps to eliminates plaque and harmful bacteria from the surfaces of the teeth and gum lines where they are hard to be reached. Flossing with antibacterial mouthwash regularly allows you to clean away loosened food particles, plaque and bacteria from in between the teeth and under the gum line. Regular visits to your dentist for professional cleanings at least twice a year is also an effective way to control plaque and tartar.
- Stop smoking and tobacco use: smoking increases the risk of developing gum disease, it is also a major reason that some cases of periodontal disease are resistant to treatment. Smoking impedes growth and repair of gum tissue and can lower the chances of success of some treatments. In addition, smokers are more likely to get gum disease than non-smokers.
- Eat healthy foods: healthy nutrition is an effective way to prevent and fight infections since it helps to build the immune system. Eating healthy foods that contains vitamin E and C, with additional antioxidant properties is an effective way to protect the health of your gums and oral tissues. Foods such as vegetable oils, nuts, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, broccoli and potatoes are good source of vitamin E and C.
- Avoid teeth clenching and grinding: like I said earlier, these habits won’t cause periodontal disease. But they exert excessive force on the periodontal ligament and bones that are supporting the teeth. This pressure can actually speed up the breakdown and destruction of these tissues. If you do grind, your dentist can create a custom occlusal guard, night guard, mouth guard or bite guard to help reduce the pressure from teeth clenching or grinding.