Periodontitis, or gum disease, affects 15-30% of all adults.
Besides causing tooth loss and bad breath, it has recently
been shown to be a possible risk factor for heart disease
and stroke. Infected pockets that develop in poorly maintained
gums may release inflammatory bacteria, or endotoxins, into
A recent study in the Journal of Periodontology evaluated
whether levels of harmful endotoxins are higher in those with
poor gum health.
To determine if gentle chewing can cause the release of endotoxins
into the bloodstream, the authors of this study examined approximately
70 people with varying levels of periodontal disease: severe,
moderate, or none. Blood samples were collected and evaluated
for endotoxins before and immediately after chewing gum.
Overall, endotoxin levels in the blood were significantly
higher after chewing in all three groups. But levels of these
bacteria were much higher in the people with severe gum disease
than in the other groups, as were "positive" cases of endotoxemia.
Furthermore, patients with severe gum disease were more than
three times more likely to have endotoxins in their blood
than were those with healthy gums.
Diseased gums may be an underestimated source of chronic
bacterial infection and disease. Follow the American Dental
Association's recommendations on gum health: Get regular dental
check-ups, brush and floss twice per day, and avoid using
tobacco. Some signs of unhealthy gums are redness, swelling,
bleeding, and persistent bad breath.
Geerts SO, Nys M, De Mol P, et al. Systemic release of endotoxins
induced by gentle mastication: Association with periodontitis
severity. Journal of Periodontology 2002:73(1), pp.
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