Nearly half of U.S. adults over 30 suffer from periodontitis

A study in The Journal of the American Dental Association finds that 42 percent of U.S. adults have periodontitis — an advanced form of gum disease.

Using information compiled from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers looked at the periodontal disease status of more than 10,000 adults aged 30 and older with one or more teeth over a six-year period (2009-2014). The study was published in the July 2018 issue of JADA.

In addition to finding that nearly half had periodontitis, they found that 7.8 percent of those adults had severe periodontitis, which was most prevalent in the adults 65 years or older.

“This national study demonstrates that periodontitis is a highly prevalent oral disease among U.S. adults,” Paul Eke, Ph.D., a senior health scientist and epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who helped author the study.

Periodontal disease is an infection of the gum tissue. Early signs of the disease — sometimes called gingivitis — include red, swollen or tender gums that may bleed when brushed. Gingivitis can be reversible but if the condition goes untreated, it can advance to periodontitis. Periodontitis can lead to the loss of tissue and bone that support the teeth and it may become more severe over time, resulting in tooth loss.

Some factors increase the risk of developing gum disease. They are:

• Poor oral hygiene.

• Smoking or chewing tobacco.

• Genetics.

• Crooked teeth that are hard to keep clean.

• Pregnancy.

• Diabetes.

• Medications, including steroids, certain types of anti-epilepsy drugs, cancer therapy drugs, some calcium channel blockers and oral contraceptives.


See your dentist if you suspect you have gum disease because the sooner you treat it, the better.

The American Dental Association’s consumer website MouthHealthy.org offers additional information on gum disease. The site also features a Symptom Checker that can help patients identify possible oral health conditions.

© 2018 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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Top Ways to Prevent GUM DISEASE:

  • Proper brushing and flossing

  • Using antibacterial toothpaste and mouthwash to kill bacteria

  • Biannual dental visits for cleanings and checkups