Obesity & Inflamed Gums Linked

Periodontitis risks may be higher in obese people due to inflammatory overload

(RxWiki News) Red, irritated and inflamed gums not only hurt, but can spread infections that eventually lead to tooth loss. Dentists may have found a link between obesity and serious gum infections.

A recent paper written by a gum infection specialist explored the link between obesity and serious gum inflammations on a cellular level. The authors explained that obese populations may have a higher risk for major gum infections and tooth loss due to the chemical reaction in fatty tissues that can trigger the body’s inflammation system to go into overdrive.

The authors recommended that healthcare professionals educate patients and provide interventions to patients at risk for major gum infections and tooth loss.

"Talk to your dentist about periodontitis risks."

Charlene Krejci, DDS, MSD, Associate Clinical Professor of Periodontics at Case Western Reserve University and staff member at Meridian South Pointe Hospital in Cleveland, OH, wrote a paper about the links between obesity and deep tooth and gum infections.

When inflammation or gum infections go untreated and then worsen, bacteria can fester in pockets between swollen gums and the base of the teeth. The infection can spread to the ligaments and bone that keep the teeth in place - the condition known as periodontitis. That level of infection can result in painful tooth loss.

Authors estimated that 50 percent of the US population 30 years of age and older have periodontitis and that obesity may be a risk factor for developing periodontitis.

Periodontitis is not simply the result of food getting stuck at the base of teeth causing an infection. The mechanism that turns food into plaque, which is a biofilm created by bacteria grouping together, can become toxic and trigger an inflammatory response in the gums.

The inflammatory response in the body may have to do with other health conditions as well. Inflammation may be more likely among individuals with cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer and/or obesity, according to study authors.

Researchers suggested that adipose tissue, the home of fat cells, may produce chemicals and proteins that can trigger reactions that are pro-inflammatory and can cause a systematic inflammatory overload. That type of pro-inflammatory reaction could mean that obese people would be at a higher risk for gum inflammation automatically and therefore at a higher risk for periodontitis based on chemical reactions in the fatty tissues.

The authors recommended that healthcare professionals work together to educate patients about the risks involved in obesity and periodontitis, and encourage counseling, treatment and intervention strategies as needed. 

This study was published in January in General Dentistry.

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Review Date: 
February 10, 2013