The prevalence of periodontal disease in the United States may be 50% higher than previously thought.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Periodontology, Chicago, have published a study on the topic in the Journal of Dental Research.

Traditionally, the CDC has used partial-mouth periodontal examinations to come up with an estimate of the prevalence of gum disease for the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES).

In a pilot study, the CDC and periodontology academy researchers conducted full-mouth, comprehensive periodontal examinations on about 450 adults ages 35 and older.

The researchers say they found that the full-mouth exams revealed far more cases of gum disease than the partial-mouth exams had detected.