In a recently published study by the University of Buffalo, School of Dental Medicine, N.Y., new evidence shows people who are overweight may experience chronic inflammation leading to the development of dental bone loss.

More specifically, this bone loss occurred in jawbone that surrounds and supports your teeth. As this underlying bone breaks down and shrinks, your teeth can become loose and drift. Other consequences include gum shrinkage, inflamed periodontal pockets and gum bleeding after brushing.

The connection between a high-fat diet and obesity/inflammation/bone loss

Oral inflammation and other inflammatory bone-related conditions are well known to develop concurrently with long term obesity and other systemic health issues such as gum disease, osteoporosis and arthritis.

However, the links between obesity and gum disease (periodontitis) have been poorly understood since further research was required to examine the connection. But now, since the U.S. study, a causational link between the two conditions has been established. Using study data from two groups of mice that were fed a high- and low-fat diet, the researchers discovered some very interesting results in relation to inflammation.

In the high-fat group, the subjects experienced obesity, more inflammation and a significant increase in myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) in the bone marrow, in comparison to the low-fat group. As a result of the MDSC increase, the high-fat group also saw an increase of osteoclasts which can lead to bone tissue breakdown, including that of the alveolar bone.

How do MDSCs, osteoclasts and alveolar bone loss contribute to adverse oral conditions?

In the U.B. study, researchers found that as the high-fat test group experienced higher levels of inflammation, their MDSC levels increased accordingly. MDSCs are immature myeloid cells released by bone marrow and the spleen in the event of inflammation. When they accumulate, they can suppress the immune system by blocking T-cell responses and decreasing immune monitoring and anti-tumour immune functions.

Another consequence of the formation of MDSCs is the development of osteoclasts. Oesteoclasts are specialised cells that when released, move to small depressions within bone surfaces. When osteoclast enzymatic activity is at chronic high levels, it leads to the continuous degradation and destruction of bone tissue via erosion, in a process called bone resorption. This process also releases minerals and the transfer of calcium to the blood. One side effect of resorption is vascular and aortic calcification. But it gets worse!

One type of bone loss that the U.B. researchers observed in the high-fat group was alveolar bone loss.

What is alveolar bone loss?

Alveolar bone loss is not the kind of bone loss you need if you want to keep your teeth! Alveolar bone is part of the mandbular and maxillary jaw bone. It surrounds each of your teeth to form tooth sockets. When alveolar bone starts breaking down, your teeth essentially lose their support structures in the jaw bone, and can become loose, start to drift and eventually lose support altogether.

Additionally, as mineral density decreases in alveolar bone as a result of resorption, alveolar bone becomes more susceptible contamination by pathogenic oral bacteria – the type that cause periodontal disease. This increases your risk of tooth loss by yet another factor!