Think You Have A Fat Chance of Getting Gum Disease? Think Again if You’re Obese

WILLIAMSPORT, COLLEGEVILLE AND PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA – As if there weren’t already enough reasons to lose weight and get in shape.

Obesity is linked to cancer, heart attack, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, and thyroid conditions, among other health problems. Now several studies performed within the past couple of years suggest you can add periodontal disease to that list, says Dr. David DiGiallorenzo, a Williamsport, Collegeville and Philadelphia dental implants specialist who offers a variety of periodontal-related services in his practice.

The gum disease-obesity connection may be a result of insulin resistance that regulates the relationship between the two, according to an article posted on, which cites an issue of Grand Rounds in Oral and Systemic Medicine. People with above-normal body mass indices also produce a higher level of inflammatory proteins, which could be another contributing factor.

“Obviously, there’s no revelation here that people who are obese need to lose weight to be healthier,” Dr. DiGiallorenzo says. “But these studies show more evidence that there is a whole-body connection to oral health. Our systems work hand-in-hand and when we don’t take proper care of one part of our body, the results are likely to show in other areas of our body.”

Periodontal disease affects the tissue that supports and anchors your teeth. It causes swelling, redness, tenderness, bleeding and receding gums, and persistent bad breath, to name a few of the signs. Often, patients with the disease require laser periodontal therapy to treat it appropriately.

A study shared at the 87th General Session of the International Association for Dental Research included data gathered from almost 37,000 men, which showed those who had a BMI of more than 30 were 29 percent more likely to develop periodontitis, or inflammation around the teeth, according to the American Dental Association.

In a second study presented at the session, Harvard University and University of Puerto Rico researchers gathered information from 146 Puerto Rican males and females including weight, height, waist measurements, probing depth and attachment loss to assess the relationship between periodontal disease and excess fat. Researchers determined that elderly men and women with a higher-than-normal waist to hip ratio have “significantly higher incidences” of periodontitis.

Studies dating back as far as 2003 have shown a connection between periodontal disease and obesity. A study published in the Journal of Periodontology in May 2003 stated there was a connection between increased risk of periodontal disease and obesity in a younger population, and obesity could be a risk factor for periodontal disease.

Obesity is becoming an epidemic, Dr. DiGiallorenzo says. Information released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that adult obesity rates doubled between 1980 and 2000. During that same timeframe, childhood obesity rates also have doubled, and they have tripled among adolescents.

Obesity-related health costs have grown from an estimated $52 billion in 1995 to approximately $75 billion in 2003, according to the CDC. Among children and adolescents, yearly obesity-related and overweight-related hospital costs have more than tripled in the past 20 years. They were $35 million between 1979 and 1981 and $127 million in 1997-99.

“This is alarming information,” Dr. DiGiallorenzo says a Philadelphia periodontist. “We need to stop this runaway train.”

It begins with you. Make a decision today to eat healthier, exercise more and take better care of yourself.

“This is the time of year when resolutions are made,” says Dr. DiGiallorenzo, who also performs crown lengthening procedures in his office. “Perhaps it’s time to add weight loss to your list and stick to that goal. You’re gums- as well as the rest of your body- just might thank you.”

© 2012 Master Google and Dr. David DiGiallorenzo.

Meet Dr. D

Dr. David DiGiallorenzo received his training at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Periodontics and Periodontal Prosthesis in the early 1990s. His training included prosthodontics, orthodontics, periodontics, and advanced oral reconstructive techniques, including oral implantology.

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