TUESDAY, Sept. 20, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Gum disease may be striking more young people than experts assumed, especially in and around their wisdom teeth, a new study finds.
The researchers also found that pregnant women with periodontal disease face more than twice the risk of preterm birth and other pregnancy complications, compared to women without periodontal disease. That increased risk is comparable to that of smoking during pregnancy.
Periodontal disease is a progressive condition in which bacteria attack gums and the roots of teeth. In recent years, many studies have also linked chronic gum disease with increased cardiovascular risk, kidney disease and obstetric complications, perhaps due to systemic inflammation.
A team from the Universities of Kentucky and North Carolina at Chapel Hill studied about 400 people in their 20s who planned to keep their wisdom teeth, and found that about 25 percent had periodontal disease with no obvious signs or symptoms of the disease.
"That a quarter of patients in their 20s had periodontal problems with no symptoms was a surprise to us since most people assumed that you don't get periodontal problems until you are 35 or 40. But nobody had looked at wisdom teeth systematically before in a very large study like this," study leader Dr. Raymond P. White Jr. said in a prepared statement.
"Although most people eventually will develop pathology with wisdom teeth, periodontal disease, pericoronitis or tooth decay, it is too early to recommend strongly that everyone has their wisdom teeth removed," White said.
"It is a good idea to have your 3rd molars evaluated before age 25. But since a quarter of people will never have problems with them, a lot depends on how risk-averse one is as to whether their third molars with no detected pathology should be extracted as a precaution," White said.
The findings were presented Sept. 20 at the annual meeting of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons in Boston.
The American Academy of Periodontology has more about periodontal disease.