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Study Shows High Gum Disease Rates in Rural Appalachia, Sheds Light on Reasons for Tooth Loss
Date:9/12/2008

MORGANTOWN, W.Va., Sept. 12 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Research on 445 families centered in two Pennsylvania towns and two West Virginia counties shows that 80 percent of adults suffer from more severe forms of periodontal disease, according to Richard Crout, D.M.D., Ph.D., an expert on gum disease and associate dean for research in the West Virginia University School of Dentistry.

"Leaving periodontal disease untreated is a major public health problem," Crout says. "Not only do we see cases where the inflammatory process has eaten down around the bone, ultimately causing tooth loss in many patients, but also, more important, the inflammation likely has traveled throughout the body. A person with periodontitis may be twice as likely to have a heart attack and almost three times more likely to have a stroke."

He added, "If a woman is pregnant, she is four to seven times more likely to have a preterm, low birth-weight baby compared to someone who does not have gum disease."

Unlike gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums that is reversible, periodontitis can create infections below the gum line leading to bone destruction and tooth loss if not treated. Bleeding of the gums can signal gingivitis. But in periodontitis, no pain or symptoms may accompany the infection spreading into the bone.

Eighty-five percent of adults in the study showed signs of bone loss.

The study focusing on rural areas of Appalachia is a WVU-University of Pittsburgh collaboration, yielding a gold mine of dental data. Crout, who is directing the West Virginia portion of the collaboration, is sharing some of the more significant findings at the 94th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Periodontology in Seattle Sept. 8. (The academy's annual meeting runs Sept. 6 through 9.)

"This is the largest oral health study ever done in Appalachia," Crout says.

In addition to dramatic rates of periodontal disease, discovery of high bacterial counts an
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SOURCE West Virginia University Health Sciences Center
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