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Healthy lifestyle may decrease periodontal disease risk

Combining lifestyle behaviors that include exercise and maintaining a healthy diet and weight may decrease the prevalence of periodontitis, according to an article in the September 2006 issue of The Journal of Evidence-Based Dental Practice.

The authors of the study recommend that oral health professionals promote these healthy lifestyle behaviors to their patients.

It's news because whereas other studies have shown associations between periodontal disease and physical activity, maintaining normal weight and healthy diet, this report combines the three factors into a single score ranging from 0 to 3 according to the number of these health enhancing behaviors practiced. The authors found that there seems to be incremental benefits associated with practicing each of the three healthy behaviors.

Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues surrounding and supporting the teeth. Although it’s a major cause of tooth loss in adults, many people don’t know they have it because it’s often painless.

The disease is caused by plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. These bacteria create toxins that can damage the gums.

At first, the gums can become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is reversible and can usually be eliminated by daily brushing and flossing.

In its more advanced stages, called periodontitis, the gums and bone that support the teeth can become seriously damaged. The teeth can become loose, fall out, or have to be removed by a dentist.

The American Dental Association recommends that people who notice any of the following signs of periodontal disease see their dentist:

  • gums that bleed when you brush your teeth;
  • red, swollen or tender gums;
  • gums that have pulled away from the teeth;
  • bad breath that doesn’t go away;
  • pus between the teeth and gums;
  • loose teeth;
  • a change in the way the teeth fit together when you bite;
  • a change in the fit of partial dentures.

Please contact the ADA if you have questions about this article.

©2010 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

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