The Link

Is there a link between obesity and gum disease?

According to a research study from the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, yes, there is, but the relationship isn’t as easy to explain as cause and effect.

The study, published in the British Dental Journal, focuses on one thing the two conditions have in common: inflammation.

By analyzing existing studies, researchers from Case Western noted that individuals with a higher body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and a more significant percentage of body fat had a higher risk of developing gum disease.

The studies used in their research analyzed data from different demographic groups at once versus studying the same group over long periods.

What they found was that changes in body chemistry affects metabolism and results in inflammation.

‘Gum disease is often present in individuals living with high levels of inflammation,’ said Dr. Sean Endsley, a Waco, Texas, dentist.

Learning about the connection between gum disease, obesity and inflammation could give dental and health care professionals new insight into treating these conditions.

‘Gum disease is a prevalent problem around the globe and can lead to a significant number of other health conditions,’ Endsley said.

According to recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 50 percent of Americans over the age of 30 have a more advanced form of gum disease known as periodontitis. This number represents nearly 64.7 million Americans.

Obesity is also a prevalent problem in the United States. According to the CDC, in 2016, 39 percent of adults aged 18 years and over (39 percent of men and 40 percent of women) were overweight. Statistics also show that the worldwide prevalence of obesity almost tripled between 1975 and 2016.

The relationship between the mouth and the body, known as the oral-systemic link, has become the focus of more frequent research in the last few decades.

‘Researchers are continuously looking for how the health of the mouth and the health of the body are connected,’ Endsley said.

Individuals living with periodontal disease have a higher risk of developing health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Gum disease has also been connected to an increased risk of certain cancers, including liver and colon cancer.

Some research studies have also found different bacteria known to cause gum disease in the brains of individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease.

So, if one of these conditions is treated, does the other one improve? The study authors are not sure yet but will test the theory in clinical trials.

Source: Case Western Reserve University. ‘Link between obesity and gum disease: Treating one may impact the other.’ ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 December 2019.