Nabil Bissada, head of the department of periodontics at Case Western Reserve School of Dental Medicine, said inflammation from gum disease can erode bone and cause tooth loss.
It can also cause breaks in the gums where harmful oral bacteria can enter the blood stream and the bacteria have been linked to preterm birth, fetal death, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis, Bissada said.
A pilot study involved 31 obese people with gum disease. Half, who had an average body mass index of 39, had gastric bypass surgery and had fat cells from the abdomen removed. A control group of obese people with a BMI of 35 were also treated for gum disease but did not have gastric bypass surgery or fat removed.
All study participants underwent non-surgical periodontal treatments of scaling/root planing and oral hygiene instructions for home care, Bissada said.
The study, published in the Journal of Periodontology, found both groups showed improvement, but the surgery group did even better on the measures for periodontal attachment, bleeding, probing depths and plaque levels.
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