DENTAL HEALTH Researchers find gum disease prevalent in people in their 20s
People with gum disease are at risk for infection to spread.
Gum disease develops much earlier in young adults and may have more health implications than dentists and other health professionals have realized, particularly when those twentysomethings still have their wisdom teeth, according to a set of studies presented Tuesday.
Periodontal disease develops when bacteria grow in the gums and hidden roots of teeth, damaging the tissue and causing gaps to form around the roots, eventually loosening the teeth.
Infection can spread to other teeth and other parts of the body more easily in people with gum disease.
What was found
Researchers from the University of North Carolina and the University of Kentucky found that 60 percent of the study subjects had signs of infection around their wisdom teeth when they were first examined, and one in four had well-established gum disease two years later, despite having no signs or symptoms.
"This was a surprise to us, since most people assumed that you don't get periodontal problems until you are age 35 or 40. We found it's more prevalent than anyone believed at a much younger age than anyone had thought," said Dr. Raymond White, a professor of oral surgery at UNC's School of Dentistry and the leader of the study.
The results were presented Tuesday during a news conference at the annual meeting of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons in Boston and will be published in the association's journal.
The data are part of a study the association set up in the late 1990s to consider what happened over time in young adults who either kept their wisdom teeth -- also called the third molars at the rear of the head and jaw -- and those who had them taken out.