Too Young for Gum Disease? Don't Count on It
Condition Can Start in Young Adults Without Symptoms; May Complicate Pregnancies
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
Gum Disease and Young Adults
Sometime between baby teeth and dentures, gum disease can settle in
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
Many participants had gum disease without symptoms around their wisdom
teeth, and their gum disease often worsened in just two years.
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
"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
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.