Lose the fat and improve the gums, dental researchers find

November 9, 2011

Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine researchers found the human body is better at fighting gum disease when fat cells, which trigger inflammation, disappear.

Findings come from a pilot study of 31 obese people with gum disease. Half of the group with an average (BMI) of 39 had gastric bypass surgery and had fat cells from the abdomen removed. That half fared better than a control group of obese people with a BMI of 35 who also were treated for gum disease but did not have the gastric bypass surgery or fat removed.

What intrigued the researchers is that the majority of those who underwent surgery had a drop in their after the procedure, a result that bodes well for overweight people predisposed to diabetes and insulin-related problems.

All study participants underwent nonsurgical periodontal treatments of scaling/root planing and oral hygiene instructions for home care. While both groups showed improvement, the surgery group did even better on the measures for periodontal attachment, bleeding, probing depths and plaque levels.

Inflammation that continues to brew in the body can have harmful effects over time, and inflammation from can erode bone and cause tooth loss. It can also cause breaks in the gums where harmful can enter the blood stream. Such bacteria have been linked to preterm birth, fetal death, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis, said Nabil Bissada, chair of the department of periodontics at Case Western Reserve School of .

Bissada is the lead author of the study, "Response to periodontal therapy in subjects who had weight loss following bariatric surgery and obese counterparts: a pilot study," published in the .

This study raises two hypotheses about why the surgery group improved.

The first theory is that excessive (adipocytes) secrete more cytokines (such as TNF and IL-6), which make insulin more resistant to doing its function. As a result, more accumulation of sugar in the blood (hyperglycemia) occurs. Losing weight, therefore, makes insulin less resistant and improves the diabetic status. This in turn helps in the response to periodontal treatment.

The other theory relates to the presence of the leptin hormone that regulates appetite. Leptin plays a role in regulating metabolism and has been linked to inflammation by increasing the production of cytokines and the –C-reactive protein, which is also linked to inflammation. Bissada said leptin production was reduced after bariatric surgery and may be one explanation for the better outcomes in the periodontal treatment.

As the researchers look to the further their research, their next step will be to conduct a longitudinal study to support their preliminary findings.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Zika virus infection alters human and viral RNA

October 20, 2016

Researchers at University of California San Diego School of Medicine have discovered that Zika virus infection leads to modifications of both viral and human genetic material. These modifications—chemical tags known as ...

Food-poisoning bacteria may be behind Crohn's disease

October 19, 2016

People who retain a particular bacterium in their gut after a bout of food poisoning may be at an increased risk of developing Crohn's disease later in life, according to a new study led by researchers at McMaster University.

Neurodevelopmental model of Zika may provide rapid answers

October 19, 2016

A newly published study from researchers working in collaboration with the Regenerative Bioscience Center at the University of Georgia demonstrates fetal death and brain damage in early chick embryos similar to microcephaly—a ...

Scientists uncover new facets of Zika-related birth defects

October 17, 2016

In a study that could one day help eliminate the tragic birth defects caused by Zika virus, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have elucidated how the virus attacks the brains of newborns, ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.