Link Between Obesity and Gum Disease Discovered

***UPDATED: November 14, 2013*** A recent study conducted by researchers at University College London’s Dental Institute has found that Obesity not only increases the risk of developing gum disease, it also negatively affects response to non-surgical periodontal treatments.  260 adults, all suffering from severe periodontitis, underwent an intensive course of periodontal therapy with data taken at baseline and two months into therapy using probing pocket depth (PPD) as the assessment tool.  According to the scientists, Body Mass Index (BMI) and obesity were associated with worse mean PPD, on a level that was similar to that of smoking, which is also known to worsen clinical periodontal outcomes.  Results were found to be independent of age, smoking status, or dental plaque levels.  The finding led researchers to conclude that BMI and obesity are independent predictors of poor response to non-surgical periodontal therapy.

When most Americans resolve to lose weight at the beginning of each year, the motivation is typically the upcoming bathing suit season or a desire to fit into that pair of skinny jeans buried in the back of your closet.  And while self-image is important, and everyone likes feeling good about themselves, the health benefits of shedding a few pounds can be astronomical.  Likewise, the medical concerns for the obese are often frightening, as the fast-growing epidemic spreads across the nation, resulting in high numbers of preventable death.  More than one-third of the American adult population is considered obese, and doctors have linked several conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer to extra poundage.  And according to a recent article from Science Daily, scientists have now determined a possible link between obesity and gum disease, adding yet another serious condition to the laundry-list of unfavorable outcomes.  Perhaps it’s time to switch our motivation from looking good on the outside, to taking care of our bodies on the inside, as being overweight could not only cost us our self-esteem, but our lives as well.

The new research was recently published in the January/February 2013 issue of General Dentistry, a clinical journal of the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).  Lead author, Charlene Krejci, DDS, MSD, claims that the body of an obese individual relentlessly produces cytokines, or proteins with inflammatory properties.  It is these proteins that are to blame for the latest discovery, as they can directly injure the gum tissue or reduce blood flow to the tissue, promoting the development of gum disease.  Nearly half of the United States’ population over the age of 30 suffers from gum disease, which is classified as a chronic inflammatory infection which affects the surrounding and supporting structures of teeth.  Gum disease is known to produce its own set of cytokines, but scientists are still trying to determine if one disease can be credited with causing the other.  AGD spokesperson Samer G. Shamoon, DDS, MAGD, says that the research between the relationship between obesity and gum disease is ongoing as the link isn’t fully understood at this point.  Shamoon continued by adding what we do know for fact is that it is wise to visit a dentist at least twice a year so that risks for gum disease can be evaluated and preventative strategies can be implemented.

Staying on top of oral hygiene habits is the best way to minimize your risk of developing gum disease.  Daily brushing, flossing, and rinsing, coupled with professional cleanings are recommended to remove disease-causing plaque.  Common symptoms associated with gum disease include painful gums, bleeding during brushing, flossing or applied pressure, pus, abscess, red and swollen gums, tooth mobility, bone loss, increased depth of periodontal pockets, and change of bite or occlusion.  If you are experiencing any or all of these symptoms, it is best to follow up with your dentist.  Some patients do not experience any of these symptoms however, and are unaware that there is a problem.  Gum disease can be easily treated with early detection, making routine visits to the dentist that much more important.

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