Obesity Leads to Gum Disease

Gum Infection More Common in Young Adults

June 2, 2003 -- Many medical problems -- from heart disease to diabetes -- are linked to obesity. But now researchers have found that gum disease is also significantly more common in obese people.

A new nationwide study looks at the frequency of gum disease, also called periodontitis -- and shows that gum disease is significantly more common in obese young adults.

It's a much younger age group than is typical -- and likely a reflection of bad eating habits, writes lead researcher Mohammed S. Al-Zahrani, MDM, with the Centers for Health Promotion at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

His study is published in the Journal of Periodontology.

Periodontitis is an infection of the gums, bone, and tissues that surround and support the teeth. It is a very common cause of tooth loss, but it has always appeared in older people -- until recent years.

In their study, Al-Zahrani and colleagues analyzed the frequency of gum disease in more than 13,000 adults over age 18 who had recently been examined by a dentist.

They found that 14% of the people had gum disease. In fact, obese people had the highest likelihood of having gum disease -- but only in the age 18-to-34 age group.

The prevalence of periodontal disease is 76% higher among obese people in this age group, writes Al-Zahrani. Young adults with a wide waist have more than double the odds of developing gum disease than normal-weight people.

Children's diets probably play the greatest role in this leap in gum disease, Al-Zahrani states. Research of dietary trends in the 11-to-18 age group has revealed a significant decrease in raw fruit and non-potato vegetables -- sources of vitamin C -- as well as decrease in calcium intake. In addition, children were drinking more sodas and non-citrus juice.

Research has shown that obese people are also at higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, stroke, and other serious health problems.

Show Sources

SOURCES: News release, American Academy of Periodontology. Journal of Periodontology, May 2003. WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise: "Gum Disease." WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise: "Obesity."
© 2003 WebMD, Inc. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info