Gum Disease Linked to Bone Loss in Obese Patients

McKinney family dental care

When it comes to McKinney family dental care, our team at McKinney Smiles wants all of our patients to know that a healthy mouth means more than just enjoying a great-looking smile. As Dr. Lawrence has covered in our blog before, decades worth of research has found that patients who experience tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss have a significantly higher risk for developing a range of chronic health conditions that include heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and even cancer.

The relationship between gum disease and these chronic health conditions often exhibits a kind of two-way effect. Take for example gum disease and diabetes. Patients with uncontrolled diabetes have a harder time preventing infections like gum disease from developing. Conversely, patients with gum disease have a hard time managing their blood sugar levels. This kind of two-way connection shows just how interconnected our oral and overall health, and why patients need to receive regular McKinney family dental care.

Now, a new study suggests that another two-way connection may also exist between gum disease and obesity. Chronic inflammation caused by obesity may trigger the development of cells that work to break down bone tissue, including the underlying structure of the jawbone that holds teeth into place, according to researchers at the University of Buffalo.

The study, which was completed using an animal model and published in the October issue of the Journal of Dental Research, discovered that excessive inflammation resulting from obesity increases the prevalence of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC), a type of immune cells that increase during illness to regulate immune function. MDSCs, which develop in bone marrow, grow into a variety of different cell types, including osteoclasts (a type of cell that actively breaks down bone tissue).

Obesity Could Lead to Permanent Tooth Loss

Bone loss ranks as a primary symptom of gum disease and may ultimately lead to the development of tooth loss in adults. Gum disease impacts nearly 50 percent of all adults in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 40 percent of all American adults qualify as obese, according to the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Combined, these statistics demonstrate just how massive a threat tooth loss is to a huge portion of adults in the U.S.

“Although there is a clear relationship between the degree of obesity and gum disease, the mechanisms that underpin the links between these conditions were not completely understood,” wrote the research team.

“This research promotes the concept that MDSC expansion during obesity to become osteoclasts during severe gum disease is tied to increased alveolar bone destruction. Taken together, this data supports the view that obesity raises the risk of periodontal bone loss,” wrote the research team.

Study Findings

As part of their study, the researchers examined two groups of mice that were fed distinctly different diets over a 16-week period. One group ate a low-fat diet that derived 10 percent of the energy it provided from fat while the second group consumed a high-fat diet that derived 45 percent of the energy it provided from the fat content.

The team found that the high-fat group experienced obesity, greater inflammation, and a higher increase of MDSCs in the spleen and bone marrow when compared to the low-fat diet group. The high-fat diet group also developed a much larger number of osteoclasts and lost more of the supporting bone structure that held in their teeth in place.


The results of this latest study help to reaffirm the connection that exists between our oral and overall health. When Dr. Lawrence tells patients that they need to schedule McKinney family dental care more often, it’s not just so he can see their wonderful smiles. It’s because patients who take better care of their oral health have a much lower risk for developing the types of health problems that can cause serious quality of life issues.

Protect your health and the health of your smile by scheduling your next appointment for McKinney family dental care with Dr. Lawrence and the team at McKinney Smiles.