Obesity and Gum Disease

Maintaining healthy weight supports good oral health

links between obesity and gum disease

Gum Disease and Obesity: Reaserch Shows Correlations

The correlation between obesity, diabetes and gum disease is something natural, holistic and biological dentists are well familiar with. New studies indicate that by reducing the fat in the body, the incidence of gum disease will improve. While research going back to 2003 has clearly demonstrated that obese adults are at higher risk of gum disease than are normal-weight people many people who are overweight or obese develop insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes as well, putting this population at even greater risk of gum disease. Following the epidemic of obesity the statistics are staggering; in the US approximately one of every three persons born in 2000 will develop diabetes in his or her lifetime.

Good news for health conscious Americans and for those who are working to improve their health through diet and exercise; Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine researchers recently reported findings from a pilot study that followed 31 obese people diagnosed with gum disease. Those who had fat cells surgically removed showed significant and rapid improvement in their symptoms of gum disease, while those who remained naturally obese showed little or no improvement.

Half of the group had gastric bypass surgery and had fat cells from the abdomen removed. That half showed much greater recovery from gum disease than did a control group of obese people who also were treated for gum disease but did not have the gastric bypass surgery or fat removed – and therefore presumably did not lose weight or work to increase their overall healthfulness. The tell tale finding of the study shows that the majority of participants who underwent surgery demonstrated significantly lower glucose levels following the procedure.

Diabetes is a complex disease with both vascular and metabolic components. A symbiotic connection appears to exist between diabetic control and oral infections. When gum disease sets in, metabolic control of diabetes is worsened. When diabetes is worsened, gum disease progresses.

Gums affected by gingivitis often bleed and are sensitive, but not always. Other signs include swollen gums, loose teeth, a bad taste in the mouth and persistent bad breath. While virtually anyone can develop periodontitis (gum disease), or diseases of the tissues surrounding the teeth and gums, people with diabetes often have more severe cases that can both cause and predict additional diabetic complications.

People who are diagnosed with adult onset diabetes type 2 are generally better able to control their symptoms though diet, exercise, weight loss and possible medications. This type of diabetes is associated with physical inactivity and obesity and therefore represents the population most likely to be affected by the Case Western Reserve University study – knowing as we do now, that by losing weight (or dropping the fat) not only can they reduce the risk of complications from diabetes, they will also lower their risk of developing gum disease, and/or increase their ability to fight existing periodontitis and restore the gums to full health.

No doubt research on this subject will continue, but the good news for those of us who are concerned with maintaining good oral health is that by following a healthy diet, getting regular dental check-ups, following a routine of adequate physical exercise and maintaining a healthy weight we are much more likely to have healthy gums and teeth. And, in the process we are much less likely to develop diabetes or obesity. Good common sense for some, great news for the rest of us.