Hereditary Periodontal Diseases


Periodontal disease, also called gingivitis or periodontitis, is a bacterial infection of the gums that leads to pain and inflammation, and may potentially cause tooth and bone loss in the mouth. While the primary cause of periodontal disease is poor oral hygiene, evidence shows that nearly one-third of Americans are genetically predisposed to developing hereditary periodontal diseases. Because many people experience no symptoms of gum disease until advanced stages, routine dental care is essential to preventing gum disease and ensuring the health of the gums and teeth.


As many as 75 percent of Americans suffer from some sort of gum disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Many factors increase the risk of developing gum disease, but approximately 30 percent of people are predisposed to hereditary periodontal disease. Many people who are genetically susceptible to developing gum disease are unaware of their increased risk status, and may wait to seek help for gum inflammation and mouth ulcers until the gum disease has caused significant dental problems.


Gum disease is caused by the bacterial formation of plaque on the inside of the mouth that hardens and forms scale or tartar if not removed. The bacteria responsible for periodontal disease cause the gums to become sore, inflamed, and infected. The gums may appear bright red or swollen and bleed easily when brushed. As the condition advances, the gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets. The infecting bacteria release proteins that damage the gums and bones in the mouth and jaw, causing the appearance of receding gums.

Without treatment, bone loss may be significant, and the teeth may begin to fall out. Hereditary periodontal disease makes a person more susceptible to the effects of this bacteria, and increases the risk of gum disease even when the teeth and gums are properly cared for with regular brushing and dental check-ups.


According to the American Dental Association, many people with periodontal disease have no symptoms and may only discover there is a problem during a routine dental exam. When symptoms of hereditary periodontal disease are present, they are the same as those associated with typical gum disease. Periodontal disease typically causes red, swollen gums that bleed easily, a bad taste in the mouth, persistently bad breath, the appearance of receding gums or longer teeth, pus or discharge near the gum line, loose teeth, a change in bite or in the way teeth fit together, or a change in the fitting of partial dentures.


The fact that periodontal disease often causes no symptoms makes prevention crucial in protecting the teeth and gums. Good oral hygiene, including brushing and flossing twice each day, is an essential part in preventing periodontal disease. Regular dental examinations and a nutritious diet also help keep the gums and teeth healthy. Anyone who may be at higher risk for periodontal disease due to genetic factors should consult their dentist for advice on preventing gum disease in the future. Treatment of gum disease involves cleaning and scaling of the teeth, surgery to remove any remaining deep pockets beneath the gums, low dose topical or oral antibiotics, and regular maintenance care.

Hereditary Considerations

A strong link has been made between the development of periodontal disease and hereditary. Studies have shown that children of parents with periodontal disease are approximately 12 times more likely to test positive for the bacteria responsible for causing periodontal disease than other children. Some people who develop periodontal disease have genetic factors that influence factor interleukin-1, a cytokine directly involved in inflammatory responses. People with this specific immune factor are 20 times more likely to suffer from advanced stages of periodontal disease than those without the factor.

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