European Journal of Epidemiology

, Volume 18, Issue 9, pp 891–898 | Cite as

Increased physical activity decreases periodontitis risk in men

  • Anwar T. Merchant
  • Waranuch Pitiphat
  • Eric B. Rimm
  • Kaumudi Joshipura


Background: Increased physical activity improves insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, and may therefore affect incidence of periodontitis. Methods: We studied the association of physical activity, walking and periodontitis in 39,461 male, US based, health professionals, 40–75 years old at baseline, more than half of whom were dentists, being followed up continuously since 1986. Participants were free of periodontitis, coronary heart disease and stroke at the start of follow-up. Physical activity and periodontitis were measured by validated questionnaires (expressed in metabolic equivalents – METs); the first report of professionally diagnosed periodontitis was considered a case. Results: Periodontitis risk decreased by 3% for every 10-MET increase in average physical activity after adjustment for age, smoking, diabetes, BMI, alcohol consumption and total calories (RR = 0.97; 95% CI: 0.95–0.99). The inverse trend remained significant in the categorical analysis. Compared to men in the lowest quintile of physical activity, those in the highest quintile had a 13% lower risk of periodontitis (RR = 0.87; 95% CI: 0.76–1.01, p-value, test for trend = 0.02). In a sub-sample of men with radiographs (n = 137) the physically active had less average bone loss (β = −0.29, p-value = 0.03) after multivariate adjustment compared to those inactive. Conclusions: In this large-scale prospective study, we found an inverse, linear association between sustained physical activity and periodontitis independent of known risk factors. The benefits of a physically active lifestyle may extend to periodontal health.

Healthy lifestyle Insulin resistance Periodontitis Physical activity 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anwar T. Merchant
    • 1
    • 2
  • Waranuch Pitiphat
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Eric B. Rimm
    • 1
    • 3
  • Kaumudi Joshipura
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of NutritionHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Oral Health Policy and EpidemiologyHarvard School of Dental MedicineBostonUSA
  3. 3.Department of EpidemiologyHarvard School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Community DentistryKhon Kaen UniversityKhon KaenThailand
  5. 5.The Channing Laboratory, Department of MedicineBrigham and Women's Hospital, and Harvard Medical SchoolUSA

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