Are you at risk?
Fortunately, routine checkups with your dental healthcare professional can detect the subtle early signs of problems such as inflammation, bleeding and receding gums. He or she also recognizes who’s at greatest risk, including seniors, smokers and those who are immunocompromised. “Smoking really wreaks havoc in the mouth. That’s a big one,” says Rocell Gercio-Chad, a registered dental hygienist. “And people with type 2 diabetes, especially the ones who can’t get their diabetes under control, have a significant increase in periodontal disease.” That’s because people with uncontrolled diabetes are more susceptible to infection and inflammation. Other factors that play a part include stress, teeth clenching or grinding, poor nutrition or oral health habits, certain medications and genetics.
You can also raise your risk by introducing new sources of foreign bacteria into your mouth—for example, sharing a spoon or letting your dog kiss you. “The bacteria that cause this disease are easily passed along,” Gercio-Chad says.