Your eye color, hair texture, and height are all examples of things you may have inherited from your parents. But did you know that they might have also given you an increased risk of gum disease? That’s right, dental issues like gum disease can run in the family. Let’s examine just how likely it is that you’ll need gum disease therapy thanks to your parents.
What Is Gum Disease?
Gum disease, also sometimes called periodontal disease, is characterized by red, swollen, tender, or bleeding gums. It’s a bacterial infection that can start out mild and painless, but can quickly progress to the point of bone and tooth loss. Bacteria can attack the structures keeping your teeth anchored in your gums. In fact, periodontal disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the United States.
Is Gum Disease Genetic?
A recent study has suggested that up to half the total cases of periodontal disease are influenced by genetics. Up to 30% of the population may have a genetic predisposition to developing gum disease. For example, some people with serious gum disease have genetic factors that impact the immune factor interleukin-1 (IL-1). This is a cytokine that plays a role in your inflammatory response to infections. These people are up to 20 times more likely to develop advanced periodontal disease than those who don’t have these genetic factors.
How Can You Fight Gum Disease?
Even if gum disease runs in your family, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re guaranteed to develop it. Keep these tips in mind to prevent from acquiring periodontal disease:
- Brush your teeth every morning and every night with a fluoridated toothpaste and an ultra-soft toothbrush to avoid irritating your gums.
- Floss daily to remove plaque from between your teeth and along your gumline. High levels of plaque can contribute to gum disease.
- Eat a balanced diet low in sugary foods and drinks and high in fresh fruits and vegetables.
- If you smoke or chew tobacco, consider quitting. People who smoke are up to twice as likely as nonsmokers to develop gum disease.
- See your dentist twice a year for regular checkups and cleanings. Cleanings can remove built-up plaque, and your dentist then has an opportunity to diagnose gum disease in its early stages while it’s still easily treatable.
Even though some people might have a hereditary predisposition to gum disease, that doesn’t inherently mean you’re going to get it. Take good care of your mouth and see your dentist regularly, and your teeth and gums should stay in great condition!
About the Author
Dr. Paul Miller graduated from VCU School of Dentistry with his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 2010. He excels in several different aspects of dentistry, such as gum disease therapy and sedation to soothe anxious patients. If you experience any of the symptoms of gum disease, or if any of your family members have ever had it, contact Dr. Miller’s Altavista, VA practice at (434) 324-8241.