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Are Gum Disease and Obesity Related?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity affects over one-third of adults in the U.S., and is a significant risk factor in numerous systemic illnesses. Aside from diabetes, heart disease, and a weakened immune system, researchers believe obesity may also be linked to an increased threat of advanced gum disease. As the leading cause of adult tooth loss, gum disease destroys the periodontal tissues and jawbone that support teeth. When left unattended, the inflammation responsible for gum disease can threaten a patient’s overall health as well as their dental health.

What They Share in Common

In patients who are obese, the body produces excessive amounts of cytokines—proteins that possess inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a common immune response to harmful microbes within the body, meant to drive out malicious germs before they can damage your body’s tissues. Unfortunately, it’s also highly destructive when allowed to run rampant. In cases of gum disease, certain oral bacteria (Porphyromonas gingivalis) manipulate the immune system to evade inflammation, and the continuous swelling can destroy sensitive gum tissue. The excessive amounts of cytokines that obese patients produce can also incite inflammation in gum tissue, contributing to the destruction of aggressive gum disease.

Controlling Your Oral and Overall Health

Chronic inflammation is attributed to more than just gum disease and obesity, and the inflammatory nature of gum disease has also been linked to heart disease, among many other illnesses. When oral tissues are damaged, such as bleeding gums, they can allow P. gingivalis and other bacteria to enter the bloodstream, increasing your risk for other inflammatory diseases.

The most effective method of preventing and controlling gum disease and its consequences is to adhere to a strict dental hygiene routine. Brushing and flossing at least twice a day controls the buildup of oral bacteria and the plaque that they form. Attending a dental checkup and cleaning every six months will allow your dentist to ensure that your mouth stays clean. Your routine visits also allow us to detect the early signs of gum disease and treat it before serious damage occurs.