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Common Sleep Problem Increases Gum Disease Risk
July 31, 2013

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - A common sleep problem also may be a risk factor for periodontal disease, says a Korean study.

The study included 687 people. All were between the ages of 47 and 77. They were tested for obstructive sleep apnea. People with this condition stop breathing during sleep. The throat relaxes, blocking the airway. Almost everyone has some apnea during sleep, but in certain people it is frequent. Sleep apnea can lead to daytime sleepiness, irritability, forgetfulness and headache. People also were examined to see if they had periodontal disease.

The researchers found:

  • About 47% of people in the study had sleep apnea.
  • About 18% had periodontal disease.
  • Within the group that had periodontal disease, 60% also had sleep apnea.

The researchers split people into two groups: those with sleep apnea and those without. They found that those with sleep apnea:

  • Had deeper periodontal pockets
  • Had gums that were more detached from the teeth
  • Had gums that were more swollen

In people over 55, those with sleep apnea had 2.5 times the risk of periodontal disease, compared with people who did not have sleep apnea. This increased risk was not found in people under the age of 55.

Sleep apnea occurs in 24% to 38% of men in Western countries and about 42% of middle-aged men in Korea. It has not been studied very much as a risk factor for periodontal disease. One previous study did find that periodontal disease was 4 times as common in people with sleep apnea as in the general population.

Periodontal disease and sleep apnea share some risk factors, such as older age, diabetes, smoking and alcohol intake.

Among people with sleep apnea, higher levels of mouth breathing were linked with periodontal disease. The researchers suggest that mouth breathing can dry the mouth and lead to bacterial growth.

The study appears in the August issue of the Journal of Periodontal Research.

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