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Stay in shape for healthy teeth and gums

That exercise routine might help more than just your waistline.

People who maintain a healthy weight and have high levels of physical fitness showed a lower incidence of severe gum disease, according to a study published in the August issue of the Journal of Periodontology. Researchers used body mass index and percent body fat to measure weight and maximal oxygen consumption as a measure of physical fitness, comparing both to subjects' oral exams.

Those with the lowest BMI and highest level of fitness had significantly lower rates of severe gum disease.

"Weight management and physical fitness both contribute to overall health and now we believe staying in shape may help lower your risk of developing gum disease. Since gum disease is related to other diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, there is even more reason to take care of yourself through diet and exercise," said Dr. Samuel Low, associate dean and professor of periodontology at the University of Florida College of Dentistry and president of the American Academy of Periodontology.

The American Dental Association says the following factors can increase one's risk of developing gum disease: tobacco smoking or chewing; diabetes, various medications such as steroids, anti-epilepsy drugs, and cancer therapy drugs; bridges that no longer fit properly; crooked teeth; fillings that have become defective; and pregnancy or use of oral contraceptives.

Warning signs include gums that bleed easily; red, swollen or tender gums; gums that have pulled away from the teeth; persistent bad breath or bad taste; permanent teeth that are loose or separating; any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite; and any change in the fit of partial dentures.

The ADA recommends patients brush their teeth twice a day, clean between their teeth every day by flossing, eat a balanced diet, and visit their dentist regularly.

For more information on gum disease, visit

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