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Mental health, heart, and autoimmune conditions

Severe gum disease affects almost 10% of the world’s population. It is often silent and shows no symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage.

Did you know that having gum or periodontal inflammation is more than a just an aesthetic concern? Gum disease involves our overall wellbeing. Studies in the past consistently revealed a strong link between gum disease and systemic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

SEE ALSO: Frequent toothbrushing protects your heart

Adding to previous research is a recent UK study that showed that patients with recorded history of gum disease go on to develop autoimmune conditions (e.g., arthritis, Type 1 diabetes, psoriasis), mental ill-health (e.g., depression, anxiety, serious mental illness), cardiovascular disease (heart failure, stroke, vascular dementia), and cardiometabolic disorders (e.g., high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes) over an average follow-up of around three years.

Led by researchers at University of Birmingham, the study looked at records of 64,379 patients who had GP-inputted history of gum disease, including gingivitis and periodontitis. These records were compared to those of 251,161 patients who had no record of periodontal disease.

“We conducted one of the largest epidemiological studies of its kind to date using UK primary care data to explore the association between periodontal disease and several chronic conditions,” said co-first author Dr. Joht Singh Chandan, of the University of Birmingham's Institute of Applied Health Research.

The research published in the journal BMJ Open, showed that patients with recorded history of gum disease at the start of the study were more likely to go on and be diagnosed with one of the mentioned conditions over an average of three years compared to the cohort without gum disease.

For those with gum disease at the beginning of the study, the results show:

  • 37% increased risk of developing mental ill-health
  • 33% increase of developing autoimmune disease
  • 18% increase in developing cardiovascular disease
  • 7% increase in having a cardiometabolic disorder (with the increased risk much higher for Type 2 diabetes at 26%).

Dr. Chandan said, "Poor oral health is extremely common, both here in the UK and globally. When oral ill-health progresses, it can lead to a substantially reduced quality of life. However, until now, not much has been known about the association of poor oral health and many chronic diseases, particularly mental ill-health. As periodontal diseases are very common, an increased risk of other chronic diseases may represent a substantial public health burden."

What does this mean for us?

For patients, this study strengthens the importance in looking after our oral health by keeping proper oral hygiene and seeing the dentist to prevent and treat gum disease.

For the healthcare community, it shows an even more fervent need for effective communication between dental and other healthcare professionals. Medical professionals should ensure that their patients are educated on the importance of oral health.

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