When it comes to oral conditions, gingivitis is the most common in the U.S. and is the first stage of periodontal (gum) disease. The American Dental Association claims that 50% of adults have gingivitis and according to the CDC 47.2% over the age of 30 have some form of periodontal disease. The initial stages of gingivitis are hardly noticeable and painless so many sufferers don’t even know that the swollen and bleeding gums are a sign of a bigger problem.
A sticky film known as plaque is the primary cause of gingivitis. When bacteria convert sugars and starches of food into plaque, it builds up along the gum line and other oral tissues, on teeth surfaces, and orthodontic devices. This is why brushing and flossing to remove it before it hardens into tartar is imperative to keep gingivitis at bay. If you don’t use floss, the ADA states that you’re only effectively cleaning 65% of your mouth! The other 35% is still growing and irritating your gums.
Passing down Oral Problems
Even though plaque is the primary cause of gingivitis, it has been theorized that some people are more genetically prone to it than others. The strength of our teeth structure and the durability of our tooth enamel are inherited by the genes of our ancestors. Chances are that if parents or other family members have gum or teeth diseases or conditions, than their children will get them as well. This is proven in the case of gingival fibromatosis, a condition of gum overgrowth, as well as cleft lip and palette syndromes.
So gingivitis in itself isn’t passible through the genes, but those that have inherited DNA with less-than-desirable oral-related chromosomes are much more likely to develop them if they don’t take care of their mouth. An oral maintenance routine is vital for everyone, but especially so for those that know their genetics aren’t on their side.
This is also why it’s very important to share all family history with your dentist at your bi-annual check-ups, and discuss any recurring concerns. If you haven’t been to a dentist in a while but often have bleeding gums when you brush and floss, consider choosing a periodontist or dentist with this specialized training. A periodontist has trained not only on general dentistry but also the health and care of the oral tissues, including gums, inner cheeks, lips and soft palettes.
Preventing Your Children from Experiencing Your Oral Pitfalls
Every parent that becomes aware of their family tree’s gum disease tendencies immediately wonders how they can keep their children from the worst of it. First and foremost, you need to have your children’s gums checked when they go to the dentist. Make sure the dentist and his staff is aware of your concerns so they don’t overlook it. If you suspect a genetic predisposition towards periodontitis in your family, ask for a periodontal probing during tooth cleaning.
Additionally, as your kiddos grow, you’ll want to make sure they are aware of their predisposition and stress to them to clean their teeth well each time and maintain a dental appointment schedule throughout their childhood.
Regardless of Genetics
Keeping gingivitis at bay, whether you’ve inherited unsound DNA or not, can be achieved with oral health and hygiene. Brushing twice daily, avoiding sugary foods and beverages, flossing once daily, and seeing the dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups is the best weapon against gingivitis. Your dentist should be able to determine with a few quick steps whether you have cause for concern, and give you tips on how to manage your gingivitis and its symptoms.
Also published on Medium.