Nearly half of American adults have some level of periodontal disease, according to a new study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The findings could provide a teachable moment for health care journalists.
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The malady’s common name, gum disease, sounds pretty innocuous. But a definition offered by the CDC provides a glimpse at its deeper implications for oral and overall health.
“Periodontal disease is a disease of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth. It can range from a mild inflammation of the soft tissues surrounding the teeth (gingivitis) to irreversible chronic destruction of both the soft and hard (bone) tissues supporting the teeth (periodontitis). The more severe form can lead to tooth loss.”
The study, published online Aug 30 by the Journal of Dental Research, found that about 47 percent of U.S. adults ages 30 and older had periodontitis. In adults ages 65 years and older, an estimated 70 percent have periodontitis.
The study was conducted in a sample of 3,743 adults who received an examination as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) during 2009 and 2010.
“This study shows that the prevalence of periodontal disease is high – nearly half of all American adults have periodontitis and the percentage increases to nearly three-fourths of older adults,” said the report’s lead author, Paul Eke, a CDC epidemiologist. Continue reading