From cavities to gum infections, there are many reasons to worry about your teeth. Without proper oral hygiene, you could develop an infection that’s easily avoidable. Even a slight infection could lead to larger, more costly problems.

8.52% of adults age 20 to 64 have periodontal disease. In fact, this condition is the most common cause of tooth loss among adults.

By understanding the risk factors for periodontal disease, you can protect yourself and your teeth.

Otherwise, your poor oral hygiene could leave you with a serious gum infection.

Ready to protect your teeth—and your smile? Learn how by learning more about periodontal disease and the lifestyle factors that are putting you at risk.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Do you feel your teeth loosening? Maybe you’ve started experiencing extreme gum pain. Without proper care, bacteria can eat at your teeth, causing these issues and more.

Periodontitis, or periodontal disease, is a serious gum infection. This inflammatory condition often begins with gingivitis, which is a bacterial infection that impacts your gum tissue. Gingivitis occurs as a result of bacteria and toxins from plaque buildup.

Bacteria can eat away at soft tissue and destroy the bone supporting your teeth. This, in time, can cause your teeth to loosen.

As a result, periodontal disease can cause you to lose your teeth!


If you’re unsure whether or not you’ve developed periodontal disease, visit your dentist. In the meantime, take a look at your gums. They should remain firm and fit snugly around your teeth.

Before we discuss the risk factors for periodontal disease, let’s review the symptoms.

A few indicators of periodontitis include:

  • Puffy or swollen gums
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth
  • Bright red or purplish gums
  • Gums that feel tender at contact
  • Gums that bleed easily
  • Receding gums (which make your teeth appear longer)
  • New spaces between your teeth
  • Pus between your teeth and gums
  • Painful chewing
  • Changes to how your teeth fit together when you bite down

If you begin noticing these symptoms, make sure to schedule an appointment with your dentist.


Periodontal disease often begins when plaque forms around your teeth. Plaque is a sticky film that’s mainly composed of bacteria. Plaque builds when sugars and starches interact with the bacteria in your mouth.

If you fail to brush your teeth, plaque can form around your teeth and harden until it becomes tartar.

Tartar is more difficult to remove without a professional’s help. The longer plaque and tartar harm your teeth, the more damage they’ll do.

In time, plaque can cause gingivitis. This condition causes inflammation and irritation around your gums and teeth. When left untreated, gingivitis can cause periodontal disease.

Without treatment, gingivitis allows pockets of plaque, tartar, and bacteria to develop between your gums and teeth. These pockets deepen and fill with more bacteria. When they remain, the pockets can cause you to lose tissue and bone.

This, in turn, can cause you to lose your teeth.

Risk Factors

According to the CDC, periodontal disease increases with age. In fact, 70.1% of adults 65 years and older have periodontal disease. However, age is only one of the risk factors of periodontal disease.

Other risk factors include:

  • Hormonal changes (sometimes caused by pregnancy or menopause)
  • Genetics
  • Inadequate nutrition
  • Substance abuse
  • Poor oral health habits
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Certain medications
  • Health conditions that decrease your immunity
  • Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and diabetes

Is gum disease hereditary? Yes! Some people are genetically susceptible to gum disease.

If your family members have had periodontal disease in the past, tell your dentist. They can help you identify the genetic risks of periodontal disease. Then, you can start a preventative and proactive treatment to minimize your risk.

Hormonal changes, including pregnancy, menopause, and puberty, are risk factors for periodontal disease as well. These changes impact the tissues in your body, such as your gums. As a result, your gums might become more susceptible to gum disease.

Stress and certain medications can also put you at risk.

Stress is connected to many conditions, such as cancer and hypertension. As a result, stress can make it more difficult for your body to fight off infection. This can leave you at risk of developing periodontal disease.

Meanwhile, medications can dry out your mouth and impact your oral health. For example, oral contraceptives, antidepressants, and heart medications can all become risk factors for periodontal disease. These medications can also cause excessive gum growth, which can make it difficult for you to maintain your oral hygiene.

Another risk factor is smoking and tobacco use. Tobacco is linked to respiratory disease, cancer, heart disease, and other health problems. It’s also associated with periodontal disease.

Tobacco use influences the extent and severity of the disease. It can also lower your chance of successful treatment.

Prevention & Treatment

Periodontal disease can become worse as the bacteria between your gums and teeth fills. If you schedule regular dentist appointments, there’s a chance you can catch the disease at its early stage, gingivitis. A few regular cleanings can clear up the bacteria.

If the disease progresses to periodontitis, you’ll need a periodontal cleaning. This type of cleaning is called scaling and root planing. Your dentist will likely complete this treatment one quadrant of your mouth at a time.

During the scaling process, a dentist will remove tartar, plaque, and toxins from above and below the gum line.

Then, the rough spots on root surfaces are smoothed, which is the planing stage.

Afterward, your gum tissue should heal and the pockets of bacteria should shrink.

Meanwhile, you’ll need to maintain proper oral hygiene. This includes brushing and flossing twice a day.

It’s important to catch periodontal disease while it’s in its earlier stages. Otherwise, you might need to visit a periodontist, who specializes in the gums and supporting tissues.

Happier, Healthier Smiles: Risk Factors for Periodontal Disease & More

Don’t ignore the risk factors for periodontal disease. Instead, speak with your dentist for tips for early prevention. Otherwise, you’ll have to deal with this painful, costly condition—and risk losing your beautiful smile.

Need to schedule a check-up? Contact us today!