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The Unexpected Link Between Gum Disease and Obesity

By Millennium Dental Technologies, Inc. on November 21, 2016 in Gum Disease, Oral-Systemic Connection

Obesity and Gum Disease

Did you know that people who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of developing periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease? When obesity is combined with unhealthy habits, the risk for periodontitis is even greater.

While the relationship between gum disease and obesity has been suggested before, recent research has solidified the connection. In June 2016, at the 94th General Session & Exhibition of the International Association for Dental Research, researchers from The University of Adelaide, South Australia presented a study that further linked the two conditions.[1]

The study measured  539 participants, who were tracked from birth for several factors. At age 31, all participants were evaluated for gum disease. The results were clear – obese participants were significantly more likely to have gum disease.  The standard risk for this age group is 33.3% for periodontitis, 14.3% for moderate to severe periodontitis, and 14.7% for Bleeding on Probing (BOP) and Clinical Attachment Loss (CAL).

Overweight Participants

  • 11% higher for any periodontitis
  • 12% higher for moderate to severe periodontitis
  • 21% higher for BOP + CAL

Obese Participants

  • 22% higher for any periodontitis
  • 27% higher for moderate to severe periodontitis
  • 57% higher for BOP + CAL

To read a summary of the study, please click here.

People are classified as obese when they have a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30% or higher.[2] Your BMI is a measurement of your overall body fat percentage calculated using your height and weight. Over the past two decades there has been a sharp increase in the number of Americans that are considered obese.

Consider the following facts about the prevalence of obesity from the Center for Disease Control (CDC):

  • 5% of U.S. adults are obese[3]
  • Non-Hispanic blacks have the highest rate of obesity at 48.1%; next comes Hispanics at 42.5%, followed by non-Hispanic whites (34.5%) and finally non-Hispanic Asians (11.7%)[4]
  • 17% of children aged 2-19 are obese, which translates to 12.7 million children and adolescents. [5]

Some in the medical profession believe obesity is a chronic condition. Obesity leads to a higher risk for other serious diseases that include arthritis, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. Obesity also increases the risk for breast, colon, endometrial, and prostate cancers, and now, gum disease.

What is the link between obesity and gum disease?

While there is not a study that proves the direct link, experts believe that the connection between obesity and gum disease may be lie in insulin resistance. Furthermore, some assert that the more you weigh above what is healthy, the higher level of inflammatory proteins your body produces. When these inflammatory proteins are present, they reduce the body’s ability to fight off infection, including those that cause periodontitis.

Decreasing Risk and Increasing Healthy Habits Starts with You

With so many dangerous health conditions associated with obesity, it is crucial that losing weight be a priority for anyone who wants to lower their risk for a number of diseases, including periodontal disease. Awareness is an important part of an overall risk reduction plan as many times, people don’t even know they are classified as obese or how much it affects their overall health.

First and foremost, you should take a BMI calculation to see where you fall in the range of healthy weight. You can do it yourself by using the following formula:

Weight in pounds
Height in inches
x 703 = Your BMI

Or you can use an online calculator:

Click here to calculate your BMI.

The BMI categories follow these numbers:

  • >Underweight < 18.5% body fat
  • Normal weight = 18.5 to 24.9% body fat
  • Overweight = 25 -29.9% body fat
  • Obesity = BMI of 30 and up

Once you know what your current BMI is, you can take steps to adjust to a healthier level. Changing activities like lack of exercise, smoking or excessive drinking which contribute to higher weight can also reduce your risk for certain diseases.

You can also increase healthy oral hygiene habits – proper teeth brushing, regular flossing and visiting the dentists – to reduce your risk of gum disease. Your dental professional team will should cover your medical history and ask about any medical conditions you know of. Your dentist will then use this information when evaluating the status of your oral health. In addition, your team will work to reduce plaque both above and below the gum line, which can help treat the disease.

If you have gum disease, there are several treatment options. Traditional methods include scaling and root planning (aka deep cleaning), antibiotics delivered by squirting a gel into a tray and placing it on your teeth, and traditional osseous surgery. Other options for periodontal disease include the minimally-invasive LANAP® protocol, the only treatment with a FDA clearance for True Regeneration – rebuilding all three parts of the body lost to gum disease-, with a quicker recovery time.

As research has confirmed, there is a clear connection between gum disease and obesity. The ability to reduce the risk of developing periodontal disease or improving your oral health starts with you!

[1]“Overweight and obesity increases risk for periodontitis.” 24 June 2016. Web. 6 October 2016. <>.

[2] “Defining Adult Overweight and Obesity.” Web. 6 October 2016. <>.

[3] “Adult Obesity Facts.” Web. 6 October 2016. <>.

[4] ibid.

[5] “Childhood Obesity Facts.” Web. 6 October 2016. <>.

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