BRAND NEW STUDY finds people with gum disease are at increased risk of mental illness
(NaturalHealth365) Could your mouth hold the clue to your future mental health? New research from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom highlights an important connection between gum disease and the risk of mental illness, heart health problems, and more.
People with gum disease have a nearly 40% increased risk of mental illness compared to people with good dental health
The team of UK researchers recently published the results of their study, which set out to “identify the association between periodontal diseases (gingivitis and periodontitis) and chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, cardiometabolic disease, autoimmune disease, and mental ill-health.”
The study, “Burden of chronic diseases associated with periodontal diseases: a retrospective cohort study using UK primary care data,” was published on December 20, 2021, in BMJ Open.
After poring over medical records 64,379 patients with either gingivitis (mild gum disease) or periodontitis (advanced gum disease involving infection and inflammation of the gums as well as tooth-supporting bones of the jaw), and comparing these patients to a cohort of 251,161 people without documented diagnoses of gum disease, the researchers discovered the following associations:
- People with gum disease were 37% more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health condition like depression or anxiety over an average of three years compared to people without gum disease
- The risk of autoimmune disease for people with gum disease was elevated by 33%
- The risk of developing cardiovascular disease increased by 18%
- The risk of type 2 diabetes increased by 26%
Several possible explanations drive this link between poor oral health and chronic disease. For instance, regarding heart disease, the researchers suggest that patients with periodontitis have “elevated circulating levels of pro-inflammatory mediators implicated in atherosclerosis,” as well as transient bacteremia (bacterial infection in the blood) that could be harmful. Similar mechanisms could explain the harmful link between gum disease and other conditions.
It could also be that people who don’t take good care of their oral health are less likely to maintain other healthy lifestyle habits that could otherwise prevent things like heart failure and diabetes.
Are you at risk of advanced gum disease? Here are six early warning signs to look out for
Healthy gums and teeth are important for more than just making sure your smile looks good, and your breath doesn’t smell. With the release of this UK study, we now have even more data linking advanced gum disease to future chronic ailments like stroke, dementia, and depression.
Keep in mind, before developing full-on periodontitis, your gums will become inflamed and irritated due to the milder form of gum disease known as gingivitis. According to the Mayo Clinic, the warning signs and symptoms of gingivitis – which can be reversed with proper oral care and consistent dental hygiene – include the following:
- Swollen or puffy gums
- Red or dark red gums
- Gums that bleed easily, especially when brushing or flossing
- Bad breath
- Receding gums (your teeth may start to appear longer)
- Tender gums
Daily flossing and brushing, a healthy diet, and routine cleanings and examinations with a dentist can help you treat and get rid of gingivitis symptoms and hopefully avoid the more advanced stages of gum disease.
Once advanced gum disease does develop – the point at which the soft tissue and bones supporting your teeth become infected – additional signs and symptoms will develop, including:
- Pus between the teeth and gums
- Loose teeth or lost teeth
- Painful chewing
- New spaces developing between your teeth
- A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
At this stage, the focus of care switches from prevention to managing symptoms and slowing disease progression, and managing and avoiding other associated health conditions.
Just know, it is never too late to start improving your oral health habits – and instilling healthy oral habits in your loved ones, too. The effort is well worth it!
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