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Your dental and mental health could be linked, along with a host of other conditions, according to a new study from the UK, calling the link between gum disease and chronic disease a “substantial public health burden.”
In the study, published Dec. 19 in the journal BMJ Open, researchers evaluated medical health data from January 1995 to January 2019 to try to identify an association between periodontal diseases, such as gingivitis or periodontitis, and chronic diseases, including mental illnesses and cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases.
The study indicated that there was a link between the two.
“In this cohort, periodontal disease appeared to be associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular, cardiometabolic, autoimmune, and mental health problems,” the study researchers concluded. “Periodontal disease is very common; therefore, an increased risk of other chronic diseases represents a substantial public health burden.
Periodontal disease is the result of infection or inflammation of the gums and bones that support the teeth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gingivitis is the less severe stage of the disease, while periodontitis can lead to bone or tooth loss. Gum disease and tooth decay are the two most significant threats to dental health, according to the CDC.
And yet, it is too common. Almost half of adults 30 or older in the United States have some form of periodontal disease, and more than 70% of adults over 65 develop it, according to the CDC. The universal challenge of maintaining dental hygiene has not been ruled out by researchers.
“Poor oral health is extremely common, both here in the UK and around the world. As poor oral health progresses, it can lead to a drastically reduced quality of life, ”co-first author Dr Joht Singh Chandan said in a press release on the study. “However, until now, little was known about the association of poor oral health and many chronic diseases, especially poor mental health.”
The study compared 64,379 adults who were diagnosed with periodontal disease to a group of 251,161 adults who were not diagnosed with periodontal disease. The groups were matched by age; sex; deprivation levels, which include “information on unemployment, household overcrowding and car / home ownership”; and the enrollment rate.
The researchers then used logistic regression models to assess the odds of having chronic diseases between the two groups. The results showed that the group with periodontal disease had a higher likelihood of being diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, cardiometabolic disease, autoimmune disease, and mental illness, such as depression and anxiety, according to the study.
Based on the data, 9.9% of people diagnosed with periodontal disease were identified as having cardiovascular disease, compared to the group without periodontal disease (7.4%). Among the group with periodontal disease, 29.7% were reported as having mental illness, compared with 19.5% of the group without dental disease.
“Our study demonstrates a significantly increased risk of all mental illnesses in patients with periodontal disease,” the study said. “In addition, within the same periodontitis cohort, there was a significantly higher risk of developing depression. This provides further evidence of the potential psychosocial impact of periodontal disease and a problem that is underestimated in the literature.
The study noted that its limitations for research were that all diagnoses and medical information depended on their accuracy in the database. He also noted that while eligible patients were required to be diagnosed with periodontitis by general practitioners, they are usually not the ones responsible for identifying gum disease.
Further studies have shed new light on how dental health can affect other parts of the body and immunity. In a study earlier this year of around 34,000 adults, researchers found that those who lost their teeth more were at 48% higher risk of dementia and 28% higher risk of dementia. , McClatchy News reported.
Dental health can also have an impact on cases of COVID-19.
A study published last year in the U.S. National Library of Medicine suggested there may be a link between poor oral hygiene and severe cases of COVID-19, given the high amounts of bacteria. in the mouth when dental hygiene is not practiced.
Since the lungs and mouth are constantly circulating bacteria between them, poor oral hygiene could play a role in respiratory infections or post-viral bacterial complications, the study reported, and the maintenance of a good hygiene is essential to prevent respiratory tract infections.
“In the meantime, we recommend that oral hygiene be maintained, or even improved, during a SARS-CoV-2 infection in order to reduce the bacterial load in the mouth and the potential risk of bacterial superinfection,” said the study. “Bacteria present in patients with severe COVID-19 are associated with the oral cavity and better oral hygiene may play a role in reducing the risk of complications. “
More and more people also stopped going to the dentist at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. A September 2020 study reported that dental services fell 75% in March 2020 and 79% in April; From February to March 2020, tooth decay and cavities increased from the fifth to the fourth most common dental diagnosis in emergency care centers. Periodontal disease was ranked sixth.
For those looking to improve their oral hygiene and get a head start on preventing dental disease, the National Institutes of Health has tips and tricks for staying healthy.