Risk Factors for Periodontal Disease

Nearly 50% of adults in the US over the age of 30 are impacted by periodontal disease. That percentage jumps to 70% in adults 65 and older. Looking at these numbers, it’s obvious that periodontal disease, ranging from slight to severe, is very prevalent in our society. So, what are some of the factors that increase our risk of developing periodontal disease and what risks can we mitigate? There are many risk factors that impact whether or not someone will develop periodontal disease over their lifetime, but this post will be looking at some of the most common causes.

Tobacco Use
Tobacco use of any kind is the number one risk factor for periodontal disease. Smokers specifically are twice as likely as non-smokers to be impacted. Tobacco use weakens the overall immune system making it harder for your body to fight the infection of gum disease. If you undergo gum therapy and continue to smoke your gums may not heal as well. 

You can look in-depth at the correlation between diabetes and periodontal disease in this post. To break it down to the basics, uncontrolled blood sugar can increase the severity of periodontal disease AND active periodontal disease makes it more difficult to regulate blood sugar. The link here goes both ways and is very much involved in the body’s overall inflammatory response. 

Uncontrolled diabetes is a major risk factor.

Family History/Heredity 
If you have family members who have lost teeth due to periodontal disease you may be more susceptible based on your genetics. At its core periodontal disease is caused by bacteria and we all have different kinds of bacteria in the oral cavity. Someone with more disease-causing bacteria will be more at risk. Other people may have different salivary chemistry that causes more tartar buildup. Still, others may have a thinner gum tissue that is less resistant to disease. All of these are inherent risk factors, meaning they aren’t something we can change to decrease our risk. 

Poor plaque removal on a daily basis increases the risk of periodontal disease.

Poor Oral Health
As stated previously, periodontal disease is caused by bacteria and if you are not practicing good home care habits and seeing your dentist regularly, it may not take long for periodontal disease to develop. The goal is to consistently disrupt the environment of the bacteria. This is achieved by mechanically removing plaque with brushing and flossing AND killing bacteria with a mouth rinse. Everyone will eventually build up tartar though, which cannot be removed with those methods, that’s why it’s imperative to see your hygienist regularly to disrupt this other bacteria safe haven. With all this disruption it is much more difficult for bacteria to make a sound home and for the disease to develop and cause bone loss.

Other risk factors for periodontal disease include but are not limited to:

  • Stress
  • Age
  • Poor Nutrition/Obesity
  • Osteoporosis
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Clenching/Grinding Teeth
  • Medications


American Academy of Periodontology


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