Listerine mouthwash bottle against turquoise background.


The Canadian Dental Association notes that seven out of 10 Canadians will develop gum disease at some time in their lives.Understanding its risk factors can influence how you treat it.


You would think that with today’s focus on oral healthcare, good brushing and flossing habits, and breakthroughs in dental treatments and technology, gum disease should be diminished. But the fact is, chronic gingivitis actually affects over 90% of the world population to some degree. And, it is prevalent at all ages.2

World Map 90% statistic number that world's population have chronic gingivitis to some degree

As you know, gingivitis is the first stage of gum disease. As dental plaque builds up on the gum line, bacteria in the plaque cause inflammation of the gingiva. The good news is that, with proper care, gingivitis is easily treated and can be completely reversed—as well as prevented with the help of a daily oral health regimen that includes brushing, flossing and rinsing.

But as you’re also aware, periodontitis is the next, much more serious stage of gum disease that can occur when gingivitis isn’t properly treated—and can ultimately result in tooth loss. And, it’s not reversible.*

Canadian Health Measures Survey:

21% of canadian adults were, at one time affected by a moderate or severe periodontal problem statistic

As for characteristics that could influence risk levels, research shows that men are more likely to be affected by gingivitis than women.4

Of course, many other factors can come into play in the occurrence of gingivitis—such as lifestyle, education level, socioeconomic status, cultural influences, values and practices.5,6

What more can you do to help?

What about modifiable behaviours? The value and importance of talking to your patients to learn more about their lifestyle and family health/disease history cannot be underestimated, as a way to make positive changes in their oral health habits and lifestyle behaviour.

An extended period of alcohol abuse can damage gingiva and dentition.7 Encouraging patients to quit smoking and lessen their alcohol intake could help reduce their risk of developing gingivitis.

From a nutritional standpoint, a diet high in sugary foods and carbohydrates and low on water intake can also increase the likelihood of plaque formation. Plus, deficiencies in important nutrients, such as vitamin C, can impair healing.8 Here is where nutrition counselling within the dental hygiene scope of practice and calling attention to the value of hydration can be beneficial.

Stress can also play a role in triggering or worsening gum disease as it causes the body to release inflammatory hormones. Also, when feeling stressed, people are less likely to take good care of their health—which includes brushing and flossing.9

And then there’s diabetes. Because diabetes affects the body’s ability to use blood sugar, patients with this disease are at a higher risk of developing infections, including gum disease.10 Reminding your patients with diabetes that poor glycemic control also affects their oral health is an important component of their overall well-being.

Other factors that can increase the risk of gum disease include genetics and family history, an immune system compromised by cancer or HIV, certain medications, and the one factor that most of your patients will face at some point: aging.10, 11

Having a clearer understanding of who has gum disease and the various factors that come into play can inform how you counsel your patients about modifying behaviours that are detrimental to their oral health. It can also help you devise an individualized treatment strategy for each and every patient.

We hope you found this article of value.


Read evidence regarding LISTERINE® Antiseptic and the reduction of existing plaque and gingivitis.


What else can you tell patients? See if these at-home to-dos already make your recommendation list.

Risk Factors to Consider footnotes

*LISTERINE® Antiseptic is not indicated in the treatment periodontitis.

1. Canadian Dental Association, Gum Disease FAQs. Accessed November 2, 2017. 2. Coventry J, Griffiths G, Scully C, Tonetti M. Periodontal disease. BMJ. 2000;321(7252):36-39. 3. Health Canada, Canadian Health Measures Survey 2007-2009. 4. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Periodontal disease. Accessed November 2, 2017. 5. Canadian Dental Association, The State of Oral Health in Canada. March, 2017. Accessed November 2, 2017. 6. Gundala R, Chava VK. Effect of lifestyle, education and socioeconomic status on periodontal health. Contemp Clin Dent. 2010;1(1):23-26. Accessed November 2, 2017. 7. American Academy of Periodontology. Study: alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on gum health. Accessed November 2, 2017. 8. Horne SB. Gum disease (gingivitis). MedicineNet. Accessed November 2, 2017. 9. WebMD. Stress may wreak havoc on your mouth. Accessed November 2, 2017. 10. WebMD. Gingivitis and periodontal disease (gum disease). Accessed November 2, 2017. 11. Mayo Clinic. Gingivitis. Risk factors. Accessed November 2, 2017.