USA’s periodontal disease worse than thought

The prevalence of periodontal disease in the United States may be significantly higher than originally estimated.
Research published in the Journal of Dental Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) suggests that the prevalence of periodontal disease may have been underestimated by as much as 50%.

The implication is that more American adults may suffer from moderate to severe gum disease than previously thought.

In a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) pilot study, funded by the CDC’s Division of Oral Health, a full-mouth, comprehensive periodontal examination was conducted on more than 450 adults over the age of 35.

Periodontal disease was classified according to definitions determined by the CDC in collaboration with the AAP.

The prevalence rates were then compared against the results of previous NHANES studies which used a partial-mouth periodontal examination.

Historically, NHANES has served as the main source for determining prevalence of periodontal disease in US adults.

The pilot study finds that the original partial-mouth study methodology may have underestimated true disease prevalence by up to 50 percent.

Samuel Low, DDS, MS, associate dean and professor of periodontology at the University of Florida College of Dentistry, and president of the American Academy of Periodontology, says: ‘This study shows that periodontal disease is a bigger problem than we all thought. It is a call to action for anyone who cares about his or her oral health. Given what we know about the relationship between gum disease and other diseases, taking care of your oral health isn’t just about a pretty smile. It has bigger implications for overall health, and is therefore a more significant public health problem.’

Paul Eke, MPH, PhD, epidemiologist at the CDC and lead author of the study,says: ‘We are currently utilising a full-mouth periodontal examination in the 2009/10 NHANES to better understand the full extent and characteristics of periodontal disease in our adult population.’


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