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Periodontal Disease & Obesity

Published date field Last Updated:

Medically Reviewed By Colgate Global Scientific Communications

Maintaining great oral care can help you prevent serious oral conditions like periodontal disease, which is also called periodontitis or gum disease. Sometimes, however, external factors can also increase your risk for gum disease, such as obesity. Here, we’ll look at the link between obesity and periodontal disease and how you can adjust your lifestyle to decrease your chances of developing both obesity and gum disease.

A Quick Background on Gum Disease

Gum disease is an inflammation of the gums that can lead to the deterioration of the tissues and bone that surround and support your teeth, which can lead to bone destruction and tooth loss. The infection is primarily caused by bacteria in dental plaque, building up and infecting the gum tissue. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can be reversed. However, periodontal disease cannot be reversed.

Signs of gum disease can look like:

  • Swollen, puffy, or sensitive gums
  • Bright red or purple gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Receding gums
  • Pain when chewing
  • Changes to your bite or teeth spacing

While poor oral hygiene is the leading cause of periodontitis, other factors can contribute to this disease. These conditions include:

  • Age: 70% of people over the age of 65 have periodontitis
  • Using tobacco or tobacco products
  • Genetics, stress, and certain medications
  • Poor nutrition and obesity

Next, we’ll look at the direct link between obesity and periodontal disease.

Can Obesity Cause Gum Disease?

Obesity can increase your risk for gum disease. First, if your diet is low in nutrients, your immune system might be compromised and thus have difficulty fighting off infection—and gum disease starts as an infection. According to a report published in the Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, obesity in children and adults can lead to gum disease. Beyond an unhealthy diet, several different factors may link these conditions. According to research published in the British Dental Journal, “increased body mass index, waist circumference, percentage of subcutaneous body fat, and serum lipid levels are associated with increased risk to develop periodontitis,” which is due to activities of specific proteins called adipose tissue-derived cytokines and hormones. Some cytokines protect the body from inflammation while others promote the development of inflammation, an important link to periodontitis. Further, oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidant defenses, can also lead to gum tissue destruction. Thus, diets rich in antioxidants could potentially help reduce the risk and progression of gum disease.

Like periodontal disease, obesity is also a growing epidemic. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this disease has tripled since 1975, and hundreds of millions of people worldwide have this condition. It can lead to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. Luckily, it’s preventable—which can, in turn, reduce your risk for periodontal disease.

Preventing Obesity and Gum Disease

It’s critical for individuals to understand the obesity epidemic and take proactive steps in addressing this issue for themselves and family members who are obese. The primary cause of obesity is an imbalance between calories consumed and calories burned. These imbalances are both due to the individual’s choices as well as the circumstances around them. That means societal conditions in health, agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, food processing, distribution, marketing, and education can all contribute to obesity. Your genetics may also play a role in developing obesity.

The first step to prevent periodontitis and obesity is changing to a lifestyle that promotes nutritious dietary choices and exercise, creating environments in which the healthiest choices are the easiest choices. Day-to-day, limiting sugary and fatty foods and increasing intake of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains not only helps reduce obesity but also contributes to better oral health. In fact, The University of Rochester reports that a balanced diet full of vitamin-rich foods can not only clean your teeth but also help make your teeth, bones, and gums stronger and help wash away plaque.

How to Keep Your Teeth Healthy

Beyond a nutrient-rich diet, maintaining excellent oral health every day plays a crucial role in preventing gum disease. Brush your teeth twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and soft-bristle toothbrush, and clean between your teeth daily with floss, water flossers, or another interdental device. Also, be sure to visit your dental professional for regular check-ups. And if you are concerned about the link between obesity and periodontal disease, be sure to discuss it with your dental professional.

Obesity and periodontal disease are both serious and preventable. Luckily, you can address both with a nutrient-dense diet, plenty of exercise, and maintaining your oral health every day.

Oral Care Center articles are reviewed by an oral health medical professional. This information is for educational purposes only. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist, physician or other qualified healthcare provider. 

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