(dpa) - Taiwan doctors have found that many Asian people suffer gum disease due to extra or fused dental roots, press reports said Saturday.
The discovery was made by a team of dentists at the Tri Service General Hospital in Taipei after analysing gum disease patients at the hospital's Dentistry Department. The researchers then broadened their study to across Taiwan, the Taipei Times and Central News Agency (CNA) said.
Dr Fu Er, head of the research team, said that many Taiwanese have extra or fused roots for the first molars of their lower jaw, resulting in thinner gums that make their alveolar bones more prone to infection or injury caused by improper brushing.
The team found that 27 per cent of the 197 gum-disease patients at the hospital had an extra root in the first molar on one side of their lower jaw, and 90 per cent of these people also had an extra root in the first molar on the opposite side of their lower jaw.
He cited research data from abroad that showed that people from many nations, including Chinese, Japanese, native Americans and Inuits have similar problems.
By comparison, Caucasians generally had lower incidence of gum disease, while the percentage of Caucasians with extra or fused roots in the first molars of their lower jaws was comparatively much lower, Fu said.
Fu has found that cutting open the gum and removing the extra root can be an effective treatment for serious gum disease.
Fu and his team's research findings were published in the August 2008 edition of the US Journal of Periodontology.
The publication was challenged, however, by some dentistry professionals abroad, who argued that Fu's research was unconvincing because the hospital's research was based on only 197 patients, all from the same hospital, the Taipei Times and CNA said.
Undaunted, Fu and his colleagues approached dentistry departments of other research hospitals across Taiwan to obtain X-ray data in an attempt to test their theory.
Out of 600 dentistry patients from northern, central and southern Taiwan - not necessarily gum disease patients - they found that 136 patients had an extra root in the first molars on both sides of their lower jaws, validating their theory that 22 to 25 per cent of Taiwanese have extra roots.
"This is not a new discovery, as reports on the issue appeared more than 70 years ago," Fu said. "Our research results are only reconfirming an old theory and provide a clearer direction for treatment."