What causes periodontal disease?

The mouth contains a large number and variety of bacteria that form a sticky film called plaque. This is the film that you brush and floss off your teeth each day. In this film, the bacteria that cause periodontal disease create toxins (poisons), which irritate the gums and bone. Even if you brush and floss your teeth each day, you may not completely remove all the plaque, especially around the gum line.

Plaque that is not removed can calcify into a rough, porous deposit called calculus (tartar). Calculus can only be removed when your teeth are cleaned at the dental office.

Health factors affecting the development of periodontal disease:

  • Smoking

    Smoking is one of the greatest risk factors for periodontal disease. It compromises the immune system’s response to bacterial build-up. Damage to the gums from smoking alters the smile line, causing an aged appearance with spongy, rolled gums. Smokers are at a 4.8 times more likely to develop bone and tooth loss due to periodontal disease.

  • Genetic Susceptibility

    Approximately 30% of the adult population is genetically predisposed to develop gum disease. A simple blood test can be performed to determine if you are genetically susceptible. People who test positive for this genetic test have 6.8 times greater chance of developing periodontal disease. These individuals may also be at higher risk for heart disease.

  • Diabetes Mellitus

    Diabetes causes blood sugar to be high. High blood sugar levels may cause an increase in bacterial build-up in gum pockets. High blood sugar may also cause lower levels of blood oxygen which is need in the healing process, so healing may be slow. Diabetics have 3 times greater risk of bone and tissue destruction, which may lead to an increased need for insulin. Many insulin dependent diabetics are also genetically positive for periodontal disease.

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