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Link Between Obesity And Periodontal Disease

In Canada and the U.S., instances of gum disease are still climbing, and the causes of gum disease are still being studied. Now, that ongoing research has found that there’s a strong link between gum disease and obesity. Can it get any worse?

Research shows that 75% of the population suffers from some form of periodontal (gum) disease. Dental hygiene cleanings alone will not eliminate harmful and infectious oral bacteria.

Treating periodontal (gum) disease

A new study published December 3, 2019 in the British Dental Journal, has found there’s a major link between periodontal disease and obesity, and that treating one of the diseases could adversely affect the other one. Read abstract.

One of the authors of the study – Andres Pinto – the professor of oral and maxillofacial medicine and diagnostic sciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine found that these two health conditions may actually be related.

The conclusions were that the influence of obesity does affect and increase the risks of the onset and progression of periodontitis.

The obesity related factors contributing to periodontitis are as follows:

  • increased body mass index
  • waist circumference
  • the percentage of body fat
  • serum lipid levels

These factors affect the body’s metabolism and contribute to the development of low-grade systemic oral and physical inflammation. It is currently not completely conclusive as to whether obesity impairs periodontal therapy but there are signs pointing to this potential.

However dental patients need to be made aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy body weight combined with proper oral hygiene procedures.

A recent study (Khader YS, et al. J Clin Periodontol 2009;36(1):18-24) showed that individuals with excess weight  had double the incidence of periodontitis while individuals with severe obesity had triple the incidence. (Abstract)

The results of the above study showed that only 14% of normal-weight participants had periodontal disease whereas 51.9% of obese participants had acquired periodontal disease.

Known Causes of Gum Disease

Periodontal (gum disease) is caused by certain bacteria that is found in the mouth. These are considered bad-bacteria, and are generally created by an excess of plaque build-up around the gums and teeth.

Without treatment eventually the gums recede enough to form spaces between the teeth and gums (pockets) which can easily become infected. As the pockets get deeper and more gum tissue and bone are destroyed, your teeth can become loose and in extreme cases may need to be removed.

When this bacteria and plaque is not properly removed through brushing, flossing and swishing with mouthwash, they continue to multiply and start affecting other parts of the body.

Are You at Risk of Periodontitis?

Symptoms of gum disease

Below are the most common symptoms of gum disease and are the major signs that you need to contact your dentist for an examination and treatment plan:

  • bad breath
  • red and swollen gums
  • bleeding gums
  • tooth pain while chewing
  • loose teeth and sensitive teeth
  • receding gum line

Diseases Periodontitis Can Cause

Then there are the diseases that gum disease can cause, namely:

  • heart attacks
  • Atherosclerosis
  • strokes
  • obesity
  • elevated cholesterol
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Diabetes
  • hypertension
  • Gastric reflux
  • infertility
  • Gout
  • Pneumonia
  • Premature birth weight
  • Pancreatic, bowel or esophageal cancer

Also see Gum Disease [Periodontal] Treatment & Therapy

What Can You Do?

If you’re experiencing problems overcoming obesity, first speak with your family doctor for a treatment plan, and then make an appointment with your dentist to determine if the treatment for obesity is causing or mitigating the gum disease, and to determine if you have gum disease in general.

Because the link between obesity and periodontitis is apparent, and periodontitis can contribute to a wide array of other health issues, it’s best to schedule an appointment for a checkup with your dentist as soon as possible. Your life and your overall health literally depends on it.

For a deeper look into the systemic link between gum disease and other serious health issues, read our previously published article A Healthy Mouth Equals A Healthier Heart for extensive insight into how gum disease is a silent killer.

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