Many people will develop some degree of gum disease during their lifetime, but some are more at risk than others, especially at certain points in life. Gum disease is an infectious condition that affects the gums, and the early stages are called gingivitis (the gingiva is the gum membrane or tissue covering the root area of the tooth). If the early signs of gingivitis are missed or ignored there is the possibility that it will develop into periodontal disease.
The word periodontium refers to gums and all the supporting structures, including the gingiva, the sulcus which is the point at which the tooth meets the gum, the surface of the tooth root, the connective tissue holding the tooth in place, and the alveolar bone which is the bone that supports the tooth sockets and the teeth. Periodontitis can destroy these structures, resulting in the loss of teeth.
Periodontal disease tends to affect people over the age of thirty five, but it can develop in anyone, which is why Leeds City Dentalcare is so keen on preventative dental care. People who are more at risk of developing this condition include:
- Tobacco users or smokers
- People who have a poor diet
- Women during puberty, the menopause and pregnancy
- Some people are more genetically disposed towards developing gum disease
- Certain illnesses, in particular systemic illnesses (illnesses that affect the whole body) increase the risk
- Certain medications prescribed to treat some conditions increase the likelihood of gum disease
Anyone who smokes is more at risk as smoking affects the gums and the alveolar bone. Smokers are more likely to have receding gums, and smoking can mask some of the early symptoms of the disease as the gums may not bleed when brushed.
The gums need a certain level of nutrients in order to stay healthy, as vitamins and minerals aid healing and help the body to fight off infections such as gum disease. Someone who does not eat well, or who is malnourished is more at risk of developing gum disease.
The hormonal changes experienced by women at certain periods during their lifetime can increase their risk. This is because these changes can increase the sensitivity of the gum tissue towards plaque bacteria (bacteria that cause gum disease), and can increase the body’s reaction, leading to more inflammation in the gums. This inflammation is the body’s way of trying to fight off infection, but can be very destructive.
Systemic illnesses such as diabetes increase the risk of periodontal disease, and make it harder for the body to fight off infection. Diabetes causes the blood vessels to narrow so they cannot transport nutrients to the gums so easily. Poorly controlled diabetes increases the amount of glucose in the saliva, providing additional food for plaque bacteria.
Some prescription medications influence the production of saliva, making the mouth drier. Dry mouth increases the risk of gum disease as saliva helps to keep the mouth clean and free from disease.
If you think you may be more at risk then it is worth talking to Dr David Brown or another of our dentist in Leeds. They will be able to advise you as to whether or not you need additional check-ups and cleanings. They can also show you the best way to look after your teeth and gums at home, so you can help avoid the risk of gum disease.