• adults;
  • lead exposure;
  • oral health;
  • periodontitis;
  • toxicology

Background and Objective:  Lead is known to have significant effects on bone metabolism and the immune system. This study tested the hypothesis that lead exposure affects periodontitis in adults.

Material and Methods:  This study used the data from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III, 1988–94). It analyzed data from 2500 men and 2399 women, 20–56 yr old, who received complete periodontal examination. Periodontitis was defined as the presence of > 20% of mesial sites with ≥ 4 mm of attachment loss. Lead exposure was grouped into three categories: < 3; 3–7; and > 7 μg/dL. Covariates were cotinine levels, poverty ratio, race/ethnicity, education, bone mineral density, diabetes, calcium intake, dental visit, and menopause (for women). All analyses were performed separately for men and women and considering the effect design. Univariate, bivariate, and stratified analysis was followed by multivariable analysis by estimating prevalence ratios through poisson regression.

Results:  After adjustment for confounders, the prevalence ratios, comparing those with a lead blood level of > 7 μg/dL to those with a lead blood level of < 3 μg/dL was 1.70 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.02, 2.85) for men and 3.80 (95% CI: 1.66, 8.73) for women.

Conclusion:  The lead blood level was positively and statistically associated with periodontitis for both men and women. Considering the public health importance of periodontitis and lead exposure, further studies are necessary to confirm this association.