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Too Young for Gum Disease? Don't Count on It

Condition Can Start in Young Adults Without Symptoms; May Complicate Pregnancies
By
WebMD Health News

Sept. 20, 2005 -- Young adults may want to make a special effort to care for their teeth and gums, even if their smiles look great, according to new research on gum disease.

Gum disease can start much earlier than you might expect, without obvious symptoms, and it could boost the odds of health problems including preterm birth in affected pregnant women.

So say researchers from the dentistry school of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Their findings were presented in Boston at the annual meeting of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.

Gum Disease and Young Adults

Sometime between baby teeth and dentures, gum disease can settle in silently.

That process can be under way when people are still in their 20s -- and it may start without obvious traces, the UNC studies show.

One study included more than 300 people in their 20s who planned to keep their wisdom teeth. Two years later, results are in for 254 of those young adults.

Many participants had gum disease without symptoms around their wisdom teeth, and their gum disease often worsened in just two years.

Surprising Finding

The result was unexpected, notes researcher Raymond White Jr., DDS, PhD. He's a former UNC dean and Dalton L. Michael Professor of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.

"That a quarter of patients in their 20s had periodontal problems with no symptoms was a surprise to us since most people assumed that you don't get periodontal problems until you are 35 or 40," says White in a news release.

White's team offers this advice:

  • Most dentists advise removing wisdom teeth affected by gum disease.
  • If patients want to keep wisdom teeth affected by gum disease, they need to commit to "a lifetime of aggressive treatment."
  • Dentists should check wisdom teeth for gum disease.

Gum Disease and Pregnancy

Gum disease has been linked to heart disease, higher odds of preterm birth, and other health problems.

The risk of early delivery was probed by White's team. They checked records of about 1,000 pregnant women.

About half of the moms-to-be had been referred to a university clinic due to high-risk pregnancies. More than one in 10 of them had moderate to severe gum disease when the study started (13%).

Nearly one in five women gave birth early (18%). That's more than twice as high as the estimated risk for the general public, the researchers note.

The odds of preterm delivery were highest for women with moderate to severe gum disease. The same might not be true for women with less risky pregnancies, write the researchers.

Inflammation from gum disease could make preterm delivery more likely, according to White's team. All women of childbearing age should be made aware of that risk, they write.

How Do I Measure Up? Get the Facts Fast!

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Only 18.5% of Americans never floss. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Floss removes food trapped between the teeth and removes the film of bacteria that forms there before it turns to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Try flossing just one tooth to get started.

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily. You are missing out on a simple way to make a big difference in the health of your mouth. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for 3 more days!

You are one of 31% of Americans who don't floss daily, but you're well on your way to making a positive impact on your teeth and gums. Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Aim for all 7 days!

Only 50.5% of Americans floss daily, and good for you that you are one of them! Regardless of how well you brush, plaque still forms between your teeth and along your gums. Toothbrush bristles alone cannot clean effectively between these tight spaces. Flossing removes up to 80% of the film that hardens to plaque, which can cause inflamed gums (gingivitis), cavities, and tooth loss. Congratulations on your good oral health habit!

SOURCES:

American Dental Association, Healthy People 2010

This tool is intended only for adults 18 and older.

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