Being Overweight Can Make You More Susceptible To Gum Disease.

Posted on Oct 22, 2018 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

An alarming percentage of Americans are more than just fat, they are obese. Obesity is when body mass index is 30 or greater. According to the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the prevalence of adults in the U.S. who are categorized as obese was 39.8 percent in 2015~2016. (

This means that nearly one-third of an obese adult is made up of fat. And, it’s not just our country that suffers from toting an excessive load of weight. In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that approximately 600 million obese adults were obese with numbers expected to rise due to high-calorie diets and sedentary lifestyles.

An oft-unknown side effect of obesity is chronic inflammation, which has been found to exacerbate other inflammatory disorders, including periodontitis (advanced gum disease). The systemic effect of obesity seems to trigger a predisposition to a variety of serious health conditions. In addition to a higher risk for periodontal disease, these include Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

These findings are nothing new, however. Over a decade ago, the Journal of Dental Research reported that “The possible causal relationship between obesity and periodontitis and potential underlying biological mechanisms remain to be established; however, the adipose tissue actively secretes a variety of cytokines and hormones that are involved in inflammatory processes, pointing toward similar pathways involved in the pathophysiology of obesity, periodontitis, and related inflammatory diseases.” (

As research continues to study the cause-&-effect, Periodontists have learned that obese patients have a 6 times higher potential to develop periodontal (gum) disease. While the role of a periodontal specialist is to tend to the oral well-being of patients regardless of their BMI, addressing this higher risk with obese individuals can be a sensitive issue.

Losing weight is not easy. And, research has even shown that factors such as sleep quality and what we eat (as much as how much we eat) can cause the brain to make the path to shedding pounds even more difficult.

For instance, studies have shown that sugar can be addictive. Sugar consumption even activates the same regions in the brain that react to cocaine. Giving up sugar to the recommended 6 teaspoons per day limit can be rather challenging for those who have a “sweet tooth.” (

Insufficient sleep also complicates the brain’s ability to regulate hunger hormones, known as ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin stimulates the appetite while leptin sends signals of feeling full. When the body is sleep-deprived, the level of ghrelin rises while leptin levels decrease. This leads to an increase in hunger.

The National Sleep Foundation states that “people who don’t get enough sleep eat twice as much fat and more than 300 extra calories the next day, compared with those who sleep for eight hours.” (

As difficult as losing weight can be, it is important to be aware of risk factors that can make you more vulnerable to gum disease, which is the nation’s leading cause of adult tooth loss. Early symptoms include gums that are tender, swollen, and may bleed easily when brushing teeth. This stage is known as gingivitis, which can be reversed with prompt and thorough oral hygiene measures.

As it worsens, however, the inflammation of oral bacteria can lead to persistent bad breath, receded gums that expose sensitive tooth roots, and gums that darken in color. If untreated, pus pockets can form on gums and teeth may loosen, eventually requiring removal.

There is no doubt that an association between obesity and periodontal disease exists. Overweight adults should take special precautions to maintain good oral health, both at home and through regular dental check-ups. This is particularly important since the bacteria of gum disease has been linked to serious health problems because of its ability to trigger inflammatory reactions. These include heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, some cancers, preterm babies, impotency, and Alzheimer’s disease.

If you are experiencing symptoms of gum disease, however, it is paramount that you be seen by a periodontist promptly to halt further progression. A periodontist is a dental specialist who has advanced training in treating all stages of gum disease as well as in the placement of dental implants.

Call 828-274-9440 to schedule an initial examination and consultation.

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