A new study has found that obese men, besides carrying extra weight, also have a higher potential for painful, potentially dangerous gum issues than their normal weight adults counterparts.
You’ve probably heard of the milder, more reversible form of gum disease – gingivitis, where only the gums are affected. Left untreated, this can progress to periodontitis where bacteria in the plaque irritate gums and provoke an inflammatory response that can be quite destructive.
As an often silently advancing condition, periodontal disease often doesn’t show itself until it has got a firm hold in your mouth.
In this latest study, researchers looked at results for nearly 37,000 men who were part of the Health Professionals Follow-up Study (HPFS) that began in 1986.
The program is designed to compliment the all-female Nurses’ Health Study and looks at the relationship between nutritional factors and the incidence of serious diseases like cancer, heart disease and vascular problems.
Lots of effort has already gone into determining the risk between gum disease and cardiovascular risk.
To see if there might be a relationship between periodontal disease and being overweight, the researchers analyzed information spanning 16 years for the subjects, all of whom were free of gum disease at the beginning of the research.
Data on height, weight, waist/hip measurements was collected as well as self-reported gum disease. Using the standard definition of obesity, a BMI of 30 of higher, Monik Jimenez, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard School of Public Health, found that obesity brought an increased risk of periodontal disease.
Jimenez will present the findings at the International Association for Dental Research general session.
Not only higher BMI’s, but waist circumferences were also linked to a higher risk of gum disease. A waist measurement of 40 inches or more, considered a risk for heart disease, increased the risk of gum disease by 19%, when compared to those with measurements under 40-inches.
“Obesity was associated with a 29 percent increased risk of periodontal disease over the course of the study.” Jimenez said.
There was a small increase in risk of periodontal disease for those who were overweight, but not obese. This hardly compared to the risk for those carrying a lot of extra weight.
In a related work, researchers at the University of Puerto Rico found that a higher waist-hip ratio (WHR) was linked to a higher risk of moderately severe gum disease in both men and women over 70-years old.
In women, an elevated waist-to-hip ratio is .88 or above; for men it’s .95 or higher. Here’s how the calculation is made, a woman with a 36-inch waist and 40-inch hips has a WHR of .90 (36/40 = .90). Subjects with elevated waist-to-hip ratios were almost six times more likely to have periodontal disease.
This work continues to build on earlier studies that link gum disease with heart disease, as well as gum disease and cancer risk in males. Gum disease in diabetics is also known to be worse.
Are you worried about your own gums?
Your own health?
To keep your mouth healthy, choose a heart healthy diet that’s also beneficial for your gums, brush and clean regularly each day, and don’t avoid regular dental check-ups.
Caught early, periodontal disease can usually be treated successfully – so you don’t have to lose a tooth.
You might also want to consider the online risk assessment tools available to find out where you stand today. If you have symptoms of gum problems a visit to your dentist is in order to keep your mouth, and your whole body, healthy.
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