Obesity and periodontitis are among the most common non-communicable diseases in the United States, and these chronic conditions may be related, according to researchers at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine who investigated the effect of obesity on non-surgical periodontal care and evaluated potential pathways that may illustrate the connection between the two conditions.
The link between obesity and gum disease isn’t as simple as cause and effect, said Andres Pinto, DMD, MBA, coauthor of the study and professor of oral and maxillofacial medicine and diagnostic sciences at the school. Instead, he said, the relationship centers on the inflammation that both diseases have in common.
Examining existing studies, the researchers found increased body mass index, waist circumference, and percentage of body fat to be associated with an increased risk of developing periodontitis. Most of the studies analyzed data from population subsets at one point in time as opposed to studying the same population over a longer period. The researchers then concluded that changes in body chemistry affect metabolism, which, in turn causes inflammation.
“Periodontal disease occurs in patients more susceptible to inflammation, who are also more susceptible to obesity,” said Pinto, adding that this information can inform how healthcare professionals plan treatments for patients suffering from obesity and/or periodontitis.
“Oral healthcare professionals need to be aware of the complexity of obesity to counsel their patients about the importance of an appropriate body weight and maintaining good oral hygiene,” said Pinto.
Further research on the relationship between periodontal disease and obesity is needed, Pinto said, noting that at this point, there is limited evidence to recommend changes in treatment planning.
“There is a thought, from the clinical perspective, that if you treat one of the issues, it may impact the other,” said Pinto. “This is the big question. For example, if we treat obesity successfully, will this impact periodontal disease to the point of being of clinical relevance compared to a control population? The jury is still out given the paucity of controlled, well designed, clinical trials on this issue.”
The study, “Review of Obesity and Periodontitis: An Epidemiological View,” was published by the British Dental Journal.