Pounds Weigh Heavy on Gums
By Eric Nagourney
Published: June 10, 2003
Young people who are obese are much more likely to suffer from gum disease than young people of normal weight, a new study says.
Writing in the current issue of The Journal of Periodontology, researchers said they had found a 76 percent higher incidence of periodontal disease in obese people ages 18 to 34. The ailment can cause serious infection and loss of teeth.
The study is based on a review of the records of more than 13,000 people who took part of a broad federal study, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
About 14 percent of those studied had periodontal disease. The rate was 18 percent for young people, 17 percent among the middle-aged and 20 percent in older adults.
Higher body mass indexes, measures of weight in relation to height, mean increased chances of having gum disease, the researchers said. People with large waists also have a 50 percent greater incidence of gum disease, the study found.
The association between obesity and periodontal disease seems to disappear with age, according to the research. One reason is that as people get older, obese or not, they are more likely to develop the gum problem.
But there may be other factors, too, said the study’s lead author, Dr. Mohammad S. Al-Zahrani of Case Western Reserve University.
The researchers speculate that the younger participants in the study may have had worse eating habits than the older ones. Deficiencies in vitamin C and calcium can cause dental problems.
”This may be part of what is happening here,” Dr. Al-Zahrani said.
The researchers say it is also possible that stress associated with obesity, especially at an early age, may play a role.