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Gum Disease Risk Quiz

The leading cause of tooth loss for people in the U.S. is not old age, as commonly thought. It's periodontal disease (also known as gum disease).

In fact, nearly 80 percent of adults have periodontal disease during their lifetime.

To find out if you are at risk for periodontal disease, take this 5-minute quiz.

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Question 1:
Are you over 40 years old?

About Your Answer

Your risk of having periodontal disease increases as you get older.

Did you know? More than half of people 55 and older have periodontal disease.

As you age, your risk of periodontal disease increases, but periodontal disease is not an inevitable part of aging.

Rather it is related to other risk factors that are prevalent in older adults such as:

  • Diminished general health
  • Diminished immune system
  • Medication side effects
  • Depression
  • Memory decline
  • Reduced salivary flow
  • Functional impairments (such as arthritis)
  • Change in financial status

With the proper preventive care, such as brushing twice daily, flossing daily, and regular dental visits, you can expect to retain gum health well into your later years


Question 2:
How often do you brush your teeth?

About Your Answer

To help prevent periodontal disease, you should:

  • Brush at least twice a day
  • Brush for two minutes each time

Frequent and effective brushing is essential for removing the plaque and harmful bacteria that cause periodontal disease. In addition to brushing twice daily, be sure you're using proper brushing technique with the head of your toothbrush placed at a 45 degree angle to the gum line

Using a motorized toothbrush can give a boost to your brushing ability and plaque removal.

What is plaque?
Plaque is a soft, sticky film that builds up on teeth and contains millions of bacteria. The bacteria in plaque cause tooth decay and gum disease if they are not removed daily through brushing and flossing.

picture of plaque

Question 3:
How often do you clean between your teeth with dental floss or an interproximal brush?

About Your Answer

Brushing alone does not remove all the bacteria from in between the teeth.

Many people only floss the teeth that they can reach, or where food is trapped. Although a few times a week is better than not at all, it's still not enough to remove all the bacteria from in between the teeth.

You should clean between all of the teeth on a daily basis, using floss or an interproximal brush. Many people only floss the teeth that they can reach, or where food is trapped.

If it's hard to floss, an interproximal brush, can make the task easier.

What is an interproximal brush?
An interproximal brush, also called an interdental brush, is a small brush for removing plaque and food particles in the hard-to-reach spaces between the teeth or around dental appliances such as braces or bridges.

picture of interproximil brush

Question 4:
Do your gums ever bleed when you brush or floss your teeth?

About Your Answer

Healthy gums do not typically bleed. Bleeding gums are a common indication of periodontal disease.

Think of gum tissue as the skin on your hand. If your hands bled every time you washed them, you would know something was wrong.

Bleeding gums should be evaluated by your dentist.

Question 5:
How often do you have your teeth professionally cleaned by a dentist or dental hygienist?

About Your Answer

See your dentist at least twice a year so that he or she can remove plaque and calculus (tartar) deposits that contribute to periodontal disease.

Even with regular brushing and flossing there may still be some accumulation of plaque and calculus (tartar) on the teeth.

In addition, frequent dental visits allow the diagnosis of any dental problems in their earliest stage and regular dental checkups can reveal much about your overall health. If your dentist finds a potential health issue, he or she can refer you to a physician for follow-up.

What is calculus (or tartar)?
Calculus, or tartar, is caused by inadequate removal of plaque. Plaque that is not removed can become mineralized and harden into calculus. Although brushing and flossing can remove plaque, once calculus is formed, it is too hard and firmly attached to be removed with a toothbrush.

picture of calculus

Routine dental visits are necessary so that calculus buildup can be professionally removed.


Question 6:
Do any of your teeth feel loose?

About Your Answer

If any of your teeth feel loose, you should make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible. Periodontal disease is characterized by the destruction of the supporting gum tissue and bone around the teeth. When this occurs the teeth may become loose. Loose teeth may indicate the loss of the supporting bone around the teeth, which is characteristic of periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is a serious inflammatory disease that is caused by a bacterial infection, and leads to destruction of the attachment fibers and supporting bone that hold your teeth in place. If neglected and allowed to progress, teeth can become loose and require extraction or fall out.

Question 7:
Do your gums appear to be receding away from your teeth?

About Your Answer

An area of gum recession is an area that has lost its underlying bone support and, as a result, the gums begin to pull away from the teeth.

It is important that this area be evaluated by a dentist.

The following signs and symptoms may indicate gum recession:

  • Sensitive teeth
  • Teeth may appear longer than normal (a larger part of the crown is visible if gums are receding)
  • The tooth feels notched at the gum line
  • Change in the tooth’s color (due to the color difference between enamel and cementum)
  • Spaces between teeth seem to grow (actually the space is the same but it seems larger because the gums do not fill it any more)
  • Cavities develop below the gum line
  • Puffy, red or swollen (inflamed) gums

What do receding gums look like?
When gums recede, they pull away from the teeth, causing the teeth to look longer than before.

picture of receding gums

What is cementum?

Cementum is a bone-like connective tissue covering the surface of the tooth root that assists in tooth support.

Question 8:
Has your dentist or dental hygienist ever told you that you have gum disease, gingivitis or gum infection?

About Your Answer

If you've been diagnosed or treated for periodontal disease in the past, you're at greater risk for periodontal disease in the future.

Regular follow-up care is essential for maintaining good dental health and identifying and treating any recurrence.

If you have a history of periodontal disease, you may be 6 times more likely to have a reocurrence of periodontal disease.

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease, which can be treated and reversed if diagnosed early. The signs and symptoms are red, swollen and puffy gums that bleed easily.

picture of gingivitis

Question 9:
Have you ever had a tooth removed because of gum disease?

About Your Answer

If periodontal disease is left untreated, it will progress and can result in the loss of teeth.

If you’ve had a tooth removed because of gum disease, you're at a higher risk of needing to have a tooth removed in the future.

In those cases where significant bone damage has occurred because of periodontal disease, and the tooth has become excessively loose, extraction of the tooth may be the only option.

Question 10:
Does anyone in your immediate family (parents, siblings) have a history of gum disease?

About Your Answer

Periodontal disease can run in the family – and not just genetically.

Research has shown that the bacteria that cause periodontal disease may be passed from parents to children and between couples when kissing or sharing eating utensils.

Did you know? Up to 30% of the population may be genetically susceptible to periodontal disease.

Genetically susceptible individuals may be up to 6 times more likely to develop periodontal disease.

Question 11:
Do you smoke or use any other tobacco products?

About Your Answer

Studies have shown that tobacco use may be one of the highest risk factors in developing periodontal diseases.

Use of tobacco products can make you 3 to 4 times more likely to develop advanced periodontal disease and can decrease your response to periodontal treatment.

People who use tobacco products and are genetically susceptible to periodontal disease are 7 to 8 times more likely to develop advanced periodontal disease.


Question 12:
Do you have diabetes?

About Your Answer

Research has shown that people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing infections, including periodontal disease. People with diabetes are approximately 3 times more likely to develop periodontal disease.

People with periodontal disease may also find their diabetes harder to control, as periodontal disease can impair the ability to process and utilize insulin.

Question 13:
If you have diabetes, is it well controlled?

About Your Answer

Poorly controlled diabetes increases the risk of diabetic complications, including periodontal disease.

People with periodontal disease may find their diabetes harder to control, as periodontal disease can impair the ability to process and utilize insulin.


Question 14:
Have you been diagnosed with heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure or osteoporosis?

About Your Answer

If you have cardiovascular disease, you may have an increased risk of periodontal disease.

Alternately, if you have periodontal disease, you may be at an increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Osteoporosis in combination with periodontal disease may lead to an increased risk of tooth loss due to the decreased density of the bone that supports the teeth.

Question 15:
Are you pregnant?

About Your Answer

Due to hormonal changes, a woman may be more susceptible to periodontal disease during pregnancy.

Pregnancy may also lead to an increase in the severity of pre-existing periodontal disease.

Some research suggests there may be an increased risk of pre-term, low birth weight babies in pregnant women who have active periodontal disease during their pregnancy.

You should schedule a checkup in your first trimester for a cleaning. If your pregnancy is more advanced, call your dentist for the first available appointment.

Your dentist will assess your oral health and map out a dental plan for the rest of your pregnancy.

This oral health information is intended for educational purposes only. You should always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health. Any services recommended are not necessarily covered with all dental plans. Check your dental plan contract or evidence of coverage to confirm the benefit coverage provided under your plan.

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Risk Score Results


Your risk for gum disease is low if you scored between 0 and 3 points.

Decrease your risk for gum disease:

Read our recommendations


Your risk for gum disease is moderate if you scored between 4 and 8 points.

Decrease your risk for gum disease:

Read our recommendations


Your risk for gum disease is high if you scored 9 points or higher.

Decrease your risk for gum disease:

Read our recommendations

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