Consumer News—Obesity, Fitness and Periodontal Disease

Can a physically fit body lead to a healthy mouth?

You might want to add regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight to your oral health care routine of regular brushing, flossing and visits to the dentist. According to a study by Japanese researchers, people with a healthy body weight and high levels of physical fitness had a lower incidence of severe periodontitis (gum disease).

Scientists evaluated 1,160 participants ages 20 to 77 years old. Patients’ body mass index and percentage of body fat were used as indicators of obesity and their estimated maximal oxygen consumption during exercise served as an indicator of physical fitness. Researchers found that patients with healthy body weights and highest fitness levels had significantly lower rates of gum disease.

Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that support your teeth and is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. In the early stage of periodontal disease, called gingivitis, the gums can become red, swollen and bleed easily. At this stage, the disease is still reversible and can usually be eliminated by daily brushing and flossing.

In the 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.

Warning signs of periodontal disease include 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 your teeth and gums; loose teeth; a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite; or change in the fit of partial dentures.

“This study shows that subjects who were lean and had high levels of physical fitness had a lower risk of severe periodontitis,” scientists concluded in the study published in the Journal of Periodontology. “Regular exercise is effective in improving physical fitness and keeping a lean frame, and exercise is also an important element to preventing lifestyle diseases.”

Although most periodontal disease is affected by lifestyle habits like poor oral hygiene, smoking or drinking alcohol, they added, exercise may have beneficial effects on periodontal disease and more study about these relationships is needed.

For more information on periodontal disease and how to get and keep your mouth in shape, visit

© 2017 American Dental Association. All rights reserved. Reproduction or republication is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission from the American Dental Association.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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  • About 90 percent of people with mouth cancer and some types of throat cancer have used tobacco. The risk of developing these cancers increases as people smoke or chew more often or for a longer time.

  • Smokers are six times more likely than nonsmokers to develop these cancers.

  • About 37 percent of patients who continue to smoke after cancer treatment will develop second cancers of the mouth, throat or larynx. While only 6 percent of people who quit smoking will develop these secondary cancers.

  • Smokeless tobacco has been linked to cancers of the cheek, gums and inner surface of the lips. Smokeless tobacco increases the risk of these cancers by nearly 50 times.7