A study in the journal General Dentistry has added obesity to the list of risk factors that may cause people to have gum disease,a condition that requires regular dental care to prevent it from getting to a serious stage.
"We know that being overweight can affect many aspects of a person's health," said Charlene Krejci, D.D.S., an associate clinical professor of periodontics at Case Western Reserve University, who led the study. "Obese individuals' bodies relentlessly produce cytokines, proteins with inflammatory properties. These cytokines may directly injure the gum tissues or reduce blood flow to the gum tissues, thus promoting the development of gum disease."
In addition to cytokines produced by obesity, Krejci said gum disease creates cytokines of its own and thus increases inflammation that can enter the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body.
The Academy of General Dentistry estimated that as many as half of the American population aged 30 and older - about 90 million people, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures - may be affected by gum disease, which is also known as gingivitis and periodontitus.
If people delay regular check-ups because they have no dental insurance, gum disease may get worse and hurt their overall tooth structure. Discount dental plans provide most dentistry services at reduced rates and help individuals and families maintain good oral health.
Just as certain types of food cause people to put on weight, sugary and acidic foods and beverages can do great harm to the teeth. Without regular cleaning and visits to a dentist, gum disease can also develop.
The inflammation that comes with the condition also impacts the support structure that connects the teeth to the bone. When left untreated, gum disease can lead to permanent tooth loss, because the gums are no longer able to hold the teeth in place.
Gingivitis accounts for about 70 percent of gum disease and usually shows itself by bleeding when teeth are brushed and flossed or by the presence of continuous bad breath. It starts with bacteria lodged at the gum line when teeth aren't properly cleaned and can lead to inflammation.
Left untreated, gingivitis may evolve into periodontitis, a more serious form of the disease that occurs in about 30 percent of cases. Among the symptoms that indicate inflammation is present are receding gums, pain at the gum line, sensitivity to hot and cold or red and puffy gums.
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