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Overweight People at Higher Risk for Periodontal Disease

You probably already know that carrying a little extra weight is bad for your health. Being overweight can cause everything from diabetes, heart disease to high blood pressure and heart attack. But now, a new study conducted by researchers at Mahidol University in Bangkok, and Tokyo Medical and Dental University in Tokyo, Japan has found a link between being overweight and an increased risk of periodontal disease.

Conducted in Bangkok, Thailand, the study followed 160 adults, 113 of whom were considered either overweight or obese and evaluated the oral health of each participant. What researchers found was that many of the overweight participants had higher instances of oral diseases such as periodontitis than participants with a lower BMI. The overweight participants also had higher levels of white blood cells and C-reactive protein, which are markers in the blood which are usually synonymous with inflammation.

The study, which was published in the journal Oral Diseases, also found that participants who were considered overweight were also 4.2 times more likely to have gum disease than participants who were at a healthy weight, and those who were considered clinically obese were nearly six times more likely to have gum disease. Dr. Stephen Hill of Allen, Texas is not surprised by the study’s findings.

"Very often you find that when a patient is very overweight or obese, they are neglecting other areas of their health as well," said Hill. "This includes their oral health."

Hill also believes that because periodontal disease is caused by inflammation and many of the participants in the study had elevated levels of C-reactive proteins, that inflammation may be putting obese patients at a higher risk for periodontitis and other ailments.

"If your gums are already inflamed, they are by nature at a higher risk for periodontitis, because periodontitis is caused by bacteria that enters your body via the inflammation of your gums," said Hill. "This causes an accumulation of plaque along the gum line, which can harden and begin to break down the bones of the teeth, causing tooth loss."

But while researchers are not quite ready to say for certain that periodontitis is caused by excess weight, the connection cannot be denied. For now, dentists like Hill believe that these findings are one more reason for patients to keep their weight under control.

"With all the health problems associated with obesity and being overweight, you can add periodontitis to the list of things that are not worth risk," said Hill. 

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