Gum Disease: Do genetics play a role?

Patients can control a number of factors that can contribute to gum disease. They can minimize the presence of oral bacteria by diligently following a home oral hygiene routine of twice-daily brushing and daily flossing. They can limit sugary snacks that give those bacteria an ample food source. They can also quit smoking.

However, there is one factor that patients may not be able to influence. Research suggests some degree of a genetic link in periodontal disease. Specifically, researchers have identified some genes involved in regulating the inflammatory response that appear to correlate with gum disease, but research in this area is ongoing.

If you have been referred to a periodontist for treatment of your gum disease, that specialist likely will inquire about your family history of gum disease at your initial evaluation. Patients who have a number of relatives who have developed gum disease may have a predisposition to the problem themselves, and the periodontist may consider these genetic factors in making recommendations for your treatment and oral hygiene regimen.

If you do have greater susceptibility to gum disease based on your family history, it’s important to be vigilant in preventing the condition, or at least preventing it from progressing. Gum disease does occur in stages, and the treatments for the mildest forms, like gingivitis, are far less invasive than those for the more advanced stages. Advanced periodontitis, for example, may require a surgical intervention. And of course, patients who have gum disease that leads to tooth or bone loss may need to undergo surgery to replace the missing teeth or bone.

Patients with genetic factors that may contribute to gum disease should be especially aware of the symptoms of the condition, such as red or swollen gums or bleeding while brushing or flossing. Seeking early treatment can save you headaches later.

At your initial periodontal evaluation, discuss the genetic aspect of gum disease with our periodontists to learn if you need to take extra steps to prevent either an initial episode of periodontal disease or a recurrence. Gum disease appears to be linked to other systemic conditions like heart disease and diabetes, so you won’t just be protecting your oral health. You’ll be giving a boost to your overall well-being, too.

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