START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good
2,149,910 people care about Health Policy

Having a Lazy Christmas Break? It Could be Bad for Your Gums

Having a Lazy Christmas Break? It Could be Bad for Your Gums

Most of us get a bit lazy around Christmas, but if the Christmas malaise was to become a habit, it really could be bad for our  health, and in particular bad for our gums and teeth.

A German study, published this month in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, found that middle-aged men who failed to exercise were up to 40% more likely to develop otherwise preventable moderate to severe gum disease. The study, conducted by researchers at Hanover Medical School in Germany, took a group of 72 men between the ages of 45 and 65 with no health complaints who had jobs that mainly involved sitting for office work. The subjects’ lifestyles were assessed through questionnaires, with researchers particularly interested in their activity levels.

The researchers then made the men exercise to test their peak oxygen uptake. They also assessed the mens’ overall gum health. The researchers found that the men who were older and who engaged in the least physical activity were more likely to have developed moderate to severe gum disease.

What is Gum Disease and Who Gets It?

Gum disease, sometimes known as periodontal disease or gingivitis, is a common health problem that will affect most people at some point in their lives. It is estimated that about 50% of people have some degree of gum disease, though usually only a minor problem. Gum disease is common among adults but not children, and age is a known risk factor for the more severe forms.

Gum disease is caused by a buildup of plaque that can contain harmful bacteria. Minor gum disease may cause the gums to bleed while brushing our teeth, and for some people causes bad breath. Severe gum disease can entail a condition called periodontitis, where the bone in the jaw begins to decay, ultimately leaving teeth unstable and leading to tooth loss.

Why Does the Gum Disease Study Matter?

Let’s be clear, the study itself isn’t all that significant. The population sample is small and so no direct conclusions can be drawn from this research if it is taken on its own. However, based on other research, we do know that gum disease and lifestyle factors like, for instance, smoking, are closely linked. This research, therefore, isn’t really a surprise. What it does point to is the importance of physical activity, in particular for people with sedentary jobs.

Commentators on the research have also speculated that the cause of the higher levels of moderate to severe gum disease may have to do with snacking. Those who have sedentary office jobs might forego lunch and instead sit at their desks snacking on food throughout the day. This means there is a frequent stream of plaque that is being allowed to build up on the teeth. Obviously, trying to limit snacking is general good advice, and this study may serve to reinforce that.

Another important point that this research flags for us is the chance to talk about how our gum health appears to be connected to larger health problems. We know for instance that those with gum disease are more likely to develop conditions like heart disease, diabetes or perhaps even conditions like Alzheimer’s. It’s not that gum disease causes these health problems, but that the lifestyle factors that contribute to more severe gum disease also contribute to things like heart disease. As such, gum disease may be a red flag for future health concerns, giving you time to do something before those health problems crop up.

Good oral hygiene is always important and it can go a long way toward tackling milder forms of gum disease. Making sure that you brush at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste (though be careful not to over-brush) is a simple and effective way of treating or preventing mild gum disease. A dentist will have to be consulted for more aggressive forms of gum disease, but again this problem is relatively uncommon for most people.

So, time to get up and work off those pies if you want to save your smile and your general health!

Read more: , , , , , , , ,

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

have you shared this story yet?

some of the best people we know are doing it


+ add your own
3:08AM PST on Jan 6, 2014

An interesting study but hardly surprising. Perhaps they will do several more extensive studies of this nature. Certainly remaining active makes sense. Even in the freezing rain...cleats on the winter boots?

1:32PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

Read the label on toothpaste. The two with red labels (now changed to light blue?) said 'If a child under age six swallows product, call poison control immediately.' When I was a child, the word was 'If you can't brush your teeth (traveling, etc) eat an apple.'

9:34AM PST on Dec 31, 2013

Fluoride Action Network ;O)

7:18AM PST on Dec 31, 2013

Some people are lucky and no matter how they treat or don't treat their teeth they will be ok. Why take the chance? Unless you think heart disease, kidneys disease, bad breath are all good things?

1:57AM PST on Dec 31, 2013

Thank for sharing very informative article

11:39PM PST on Dec 30, 2013

don't forget to floss

8:30PM PST on Dec 30, 2013


7:42PM PST on Dec 30, 2013

I'm into exercise, but I never really expected it to be good for my gums.

Live, & learn.

7:25PM PST on Dec 30, 2013


6:43PM PST on Dec 30, 2013

When I was young, it wasn't unusual for people th have all their teeth pulled by the time they were in their 50's.

We've made real strides in dental care.

Regular visits to your dentist are a good place to start.

add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

Care2 - Be Extraordinary - Start a Care2 Petition
ads keep care2 free

Recent Comments from Causes

Never been jealous of a cat before...boy would I love a hammock!

I hear the funeral bells ringing It's the death of Mother Earth A mother who loved us dearly But we…

meet our writers

Steve Williams Steve Williams is a passionate supporter of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) rights, human... more
ads keep care2 free

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.