Periodontal Disease: Are You at Risk?

There are many risk factors that increase the likelihood of Periodontal Disease development, as well as increasing the severity and speed at which it may occur. The individual risk factors have unique mechanisms of action; however, all operate in one of two ways: increasing biofilm (bacterial) levels or impairing the body’s ability to respond to the bacterial challenge (host immune response).

The primary role of all dental providers is to identify the potential risk factors for a particular disease and to decrease their risks. For example, the treatment plan may include developing and implementing a risk reduction strategy. Eliminating or reducing as many risks as possible will improve disease prevention and treatment outcomes. In this way we can customize patient care rather than use a “one shoe fits all” approach with our patients.

Risk factor reduction programs can be smoking cessation programs, dietary counseling, oral hygiene-instructions, correcting faulty restorations, and encouraging compliance for poorly controlled diabetic individuals.  The cornerstone to decreasing Periodontal Disease is to reduce the patient’s individual biofilm burden. This can be accomplished through a variety of customized oral hygiene instructions such as an automatic toothbrush usage, interdental biofilm removal devices, antimicrobial mouth rinses, antibiotic therapy and more frequent cleaning appointments.

The American Academy of Periodontology has published risk factors for Periodontal Disease on their website. Below are examples of the risk factors for Periodontal Disease.


Studies indicate that older people have the highest rates of periodontal disease. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that over 70% of Americans 65 and older have periodontitis.


Tobacco use is linked with many serious illnesses such as cancer, lung disease and heart disease, as well as numerous other health problems. Tobacco users also are at increased risk for periodontal disease. Studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the most significant risk factors in the development and progression of periodontal disease.


Research has indicated that some people may be genetically susceptible to gum disease. Despite aggressive oral care habits, these people may be more likely to develop periodontal disease. Identifying these people with a genetic test before they even show signs of the disease and getting them into early intervention treatment may help them keep their teeth for a lifetime.


Stress is linked to many serious conditions such as hypertension, cancer, and numerous other health problems. Stress also is a risk factor for periodontal disease. Research demonstrates that stress can make it more difficult for the body to fight off infection, including periodontal diseases.


Some drugs, such as oral contraceptives, anti-depressants, and certain heart medicines, can affect your oral health. Just as you notify your pharmacist and other health care providers of all medicines you are taking and any changes in your overall health, you should also inform your dental care provider.


Clenching or grinding your teeth can put excess force on the supporting tissues of the teeth and could speed up the rate at which these periodontal tissues are destroyed.


Other systemic diseases that interfere with the body’s inflammatory system may worsen the condition of the gums. These include cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis.


A diet low in important nutrients can compromise the body’s immune system and make it harder for the body to fight off infection. Because periodontal disease begins as an infection, poor nutrition can worsen the condition of your gums. In addition, research has shown that obesity may increase the risk of periodontal disease.

The philosophies of the doctors at PDG are proactive.  Rather than taking a  “reactive” approach, we are “proactive” to prevent the disease from occurring. Please, contact the doctors at PDG to create your personalized “Periodontal Risk Assessment program.”