Some risk factors for gum disease are beyond your control. For instance, if your mom and dad (and aunts and grandparents) had gum disease, chances are you’ll develop it at some point in your life too. However, a number of factors within your control, specifically those related to lifestyle choices, can dramatically increase your risk for gum inflammation, even if you brush and floss regularly. Today, we’re examining a few of these high-risk lifestyle choices and discussing some strategies that can help you enjoy a healthier smile.
Smoking: Healthy Gum’s Enemy #1
A study published recently in the Journal of Periodontology provided hard numbers for a connection most dental professionals have taken for granted for decades: that smoking dramatically increases the risk for gum disease. According to the study, smokers have four times the risk of developing gum disease than people who have never smoked. In fact, researchers working on the study found that 53% of gum disease cases identified in study participants were due to smoking.
Healthy Smile Strategy: The study also found that participants who smoked in the past but who had successfully abstained for at least 11 years had no increase in gum disease risk. While 11 years can seem daunting, taking proven steps now to reduce and eventually eliminate smoking can help you enjoy healthier teeth and gums throughout your life.
Stressed Out Gums
The American Academy of Periodontology has long identified prolonged environmental and psychological stress as a major risk factor for developing gum disease although the exact relationship between the two has yet to be determined. Most experts point to physiological factors, specifically the release of cortisol, the “stress hormone,” into the body over prolonged periods. In the short term, a blast of cortisol helps us concentrate and perform better (and, in fact, is one of our primary survival mechanisms). Over a long period of time, too much cortisol can impair the body's immune function and increase inflammation, two conditions that contribute directly to gum disease.
Healthy Smile Strategy: You can’t remove all sources of stress from your life, but you can take a few minutes every day to take yourself out of the stress. Take a few minutes at your desk, in your dorm room, or even locked away in the bathroom to close your eyes and practice a few simple stress relief techniques. Guided imagery and deep breathing exercises are free, take less than ten minutes, and have been shown to significantly lower stress levels.
About Dr. Marco Cueva
Marco Cueva, DDS, MS is a board-certified periodontist with extensive training and experience providing personalized treatment for patients with gum disease. New patients can schedule an appointment or consultation with Periodontic Excellence at our Allen, TX dental office by calling 972-390-9944.