Exercise is great for our health … and our teeth too?
PD Dr. Kristina Bertl, PhD MSc MBA
Regular physical exercise and sport have a wealth of positive effects on our health. When you think about exercise, you might first think about cardiovascular health or bodyweight, but can physical exercise also have a positive effect when it comes to diseases of the oral cavity?
A Japanese research group recently examined this issue (Iwasaki et al. 2023). As part of a cross-sectional study, the authors investigated whether physical exercise could be correlated with the occurrence and potentially the severity of periodontal disease. They studied a total of 2,160 Japanese patients, 1,414 women and 746 men with an average age of approx. 58. A clinical examination was performed on each participant to check for any existing periodontitis and its severity, and to record their physical exercise habits using a validated questionnaire.
In total, 55% of study participants had moderate and 16% had severe periodontitis. Just under half stated that they regularly visit the dentist and approx. 62% stated that they regularly perform interdental cleaning in addition to cleaning their teeth; the study revealed a significant difference between male and female participants (67 versus 52%) in this respect. There was another difference between male and female participants in terms of smoking behaviour, with 91% of female participants stating that they had never smoked, in comparison to just 28% of male participants.
Another difference between the sexes was revealed in relation to the primary issue examined by the study:
- Women who exercise regularly showed a significantly reduced risk of periodontitis and a significantly reduced severity of periodontitis.
- The same analysis in the male participants revealed no positive effect of physical exercise on the periodontium.
This positive effect of physical exercise on the periodontium likely relates to the level of systemic inflammation. Others parameters – such as the significant difference in smoking behaviour between men and women – likely explain why this study only showed this benefit in women.
In summary, a potential positive effect of physical exercise on periodontal health is an interesting and likely often overlooked and/or unexpected effect.
- Iwasaki M, Yoshihara A, Suwama K, et al. A cross-sectional study of the association between periodontitis and physical activity in the Japanese population. J Periodont Res. 2023;58:350-359.