The truth is that you can get gum disease at any age – even some young children have gum disease. While proper oral care can reduce the risk that you will get it, here are some of the reasons that you could develop gum disease, even at a young age.
Smoking: If you're a smoker you may be five times more likely to get gum disease than a non-smoker. Nicotine reduces blood flow to the gums. As well, smoking dries the mouth, burns the tissues, stains the teeth and therefore plaque and tartar build up more quickly. Chemicals in the smoke combine with bacteria in the mouth to make plaque and tartar even more harmful to gums. Since gums usually bleed less when you smoke, they can look healthier than they really are.
Heredity: Some people, by virtue of their genes, are simply more vulnerable to gum disease than other people. If your mother, father, brother or sister has gum disease, you may be more likely to develop it.
Saliva transfer: Gum disease is a bacterial infection and it can be transferred from one person to another through saliva. So you can acquire gum disease from someone else who has it such as your parents, siblings or even your sweetheart by, for example, sharing food, a toothbrush or a kiss.
Poor nutrition: If you don’t eat the right foods, your body doesn’t have the building blocks to repair damaged cells and to keep the immune system healthy. People with lowered immune systems are at higher risk for gum disease.
As well, harmful bacteria feed on starchy junk food and sugary treats and drinks, often leading to the accumulation of plaque and tartar.
Stress and illness: Both stress and illness lower the body's immune response and make us more vulnerable to infection. So if you're having friend troubles or money problems or even suffering from a cold or flu, you may be more susceptible to gum disease.
Medical conditions: People with certain medical conditions, like diabetes, are at higher risk for developing infections, including gum disease. Other illnesses like cancer or AIDS and their treatments can also affect the health of gums.
Medications: There are hundreds of medications that can reduce the flow of saliva, which helps to protect our gums. Without enough saliva, a dry mouth is more vulnerable to gum infections and decay.
Hormonal changes for women: Women are more susceptible to gum disease at certain stages of their lives (puberty, monthly menstrual cycle, pregnancy, menopause). Hormones influence the flow of blood to gum tissue and the body's ability to fight the toxins in plaque and tartar. These changes can cause gums to be more sensitive and make it easier for gum disease to develop.
Braces: Braces tend to trap food and because the areas around the braces are difficult to clean, lots of bacteria can cling and grow. As well, braces often cause tiny scratches around the tongue and inner lip and bacteria can enter the body through these scratches.
There are a number of other risk factors for gum disease. Be sure to discuss diet, lifestyle, medications and medical conditions with your dental professional so he or she can help you prevent gum disease.